EDDIE HOWE admits Newcastle United will have to reflect on the deficiencies in “personnel and mindset” that have resulted in a series of ineffective defensive performances on the road this season.

Last season, as they qualified for the Champions League, Newcastle lost just three of their 19 away matches, conceding just 19 goals in those games. This term, as they prepare for the final away game of the season at Brentford at the weekend, the Magpies have already suffered 11 league defeats on their travels, conceding 38 goals in the process.

The difference is stark, and was once highlighted by the defensive lapses that proved so costly in Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford.

Howe does not want to spend too much time on reflection just yet, with Sunday’s game set to go a long way towards determining whether Newcastle have any chance of competing in Europe next season. However, once the campaign is over, the Magpies boss accepts he might have to make some tough decisions to ensure things improve next term.

“I would say it’s the defensive side of the game that’s different from the previous season at the moment,” admitted Howe. “Last season, we were great away from home defensively. We kept a lot of clean sheets. Maybe they weren’t always true classic performances, but there were a lot of 1-0 wins and we’ve missed that this year.

“We haven’t delivered anywhere near as many of those type of performances, which you need on the road. We have to look at why. We have to look at the personnel of the team and look at the mentality of the group because we should be delivering better than that.”


There are mitigating factors for Newcastle’s defensive downturn, most notably the injury list that has deprived Howe of so many of key performers for big chunks of the campaign.

Of the back four and goalkeeper that started at Old Trafford on Wednesday, only a half-fit Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn featured in the defensive unit that did so well for much of last season. Nick Pope and Fabian Schar were on the substitutes’ bench as they returned from lengthy absences, while Sven Botman will miss some of next season after suffering cruciate-ligament damage.

“I think there are reasons,” said Howe. “If you look at our back four (against Manchester United), it’s different to last year. Obviously, it’s a different season, but if you look at the players that we’ve injured, who have been associated to the back four or back five, then it’s been a heavy toll for us.

“Now, it’s up to us to try to put together a back four or back five that can perform better than it has. I think there have been spells where we’ve looked really good, so it’s not all been bad. But overall, when you look back, that’s certainly been something that’s hampered our progress.”

Wednesday’s defeat means Newcastle’s European fate is no longer in their own hands. They could conceivably lose at Brentford and yet still qualify for the Conference League, but they could also win their final game and still miss out on Europe altogether.

“The control we’ve got is our performance and result against Brentford,” said Howe. “In terms of what will happen regarding Europe, that’s now out of our hands and we have to accept that.

“It doesn’t mean there’s no hope, there’s hope and we’ll give everything we can until the last minute of the season.”