Newcastle United striker Callum Wilson. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Ciaran Clark - what are you doing?
Newcastle fans had been calling for a Federico Fernandez recall in Jamaal Lascelles’ suspended absence but Ciaran Clark got the nod.
And inside the opening 10 minutes, Clark threw his selection back in his head coach’s face with an early red card.
What was Clark doing? His clearance that bounced off Teemu Pukki was unfortunate but what followed was utter stupidity from the defender.
In the closing stage, taking one for the team is acceptable. Doing it so early, on your club’s biggest game of the campaign, is almost unforgivable.
Ryan Fraser was sacrificed as Fernandez came on for his first appearance since early October. United switched to a 4-3-2 formation.
Down to 10 men - but full of heart
Norwich ended the first-half with 62% possession but Newcastle held out fairly comfortable.
The only real heart-in-mouth followed when Christos Tzolis’s cross to the back post was met by Josh Sargent, but Jamal Lewis produced a vital block.
United struggled to transition from defence to attack but with Allan Saint-Maximin on the pitch, you still felt they’d create chances on the break.
Smith’s side continued in exact fashion after the break. It’s a typical football cliche but the St James’ Park crowd took the 12th man to a new level, or in this instant the 11th.
Newcastle’s great stadium became a cauldron of noise. Every, tackle, block and run was cheered. Then, a goal. A big, big goal. Or at least it was at the time.
For what feels like the first time this season, a VAR call went in Newcastle’s favour. Fernandez’s header handled by Kenny McLean.
Andrew Madeley had the final say the VAR monitor and Wilson, captain for the evening, finished past Tim Krul, despite the former NUFC man getting a hand to it.
On an evening that swiftly threatened to put another dark cloud over Tyneside - and no, not Storm Arwen, it seems the heavens were edging in favour Howe & Co’s side.
But Norwich found a way back. Dubravka at fault? A weak punch? Why didn’t he catch it? The fine margins in Newcastle’s season. Anyway, take nothing away from Pukki’s finish as he powered his volley into the top left corner.
The Canaries equaliser took everything out of United, both out of the players and the crowd. A point apiece brought a few boos around St James’ Park.
What next for Newcastle?
No one wants to hear of the word relegation in November - but that’s where Newcastle are heading towards.
United’s continued plight isn’t for the want of trying. The 10-men, let down by their teammate Clark, gave everything to the cause.
Earning a point in any other circumstances would be admirable but in Newcastle’s current predicament, a win was desperately needed.
Still, that elusive first victory alludes the club. That’s 14 games without one. Still, they occupy bottom of the table.
If there is room for dropping points at home to Norwich City, there isn’t for Burnley on Saturday.
On a week that started with needing six points, now turns to four.
POSSESSION: Newcastle United 31%-69% Norwich City.
SHOTS: Newcastle United 9-16 Norwich City.
SHOTS ON TARGET: Newcastle United 1-6 Norwich City.
CORNERS: Newcastle United 2-5 Norwich City.
FOULS: Newcastle United 8-11 Norwich City.
Newcastle United marks
Newcastle (4-4-1-1): Dubravka 5; Manquillo 6, Schar 6, Clark 1, Lewis 6; Fraser N/A (Fernandez 7), Shelvey 8, Willock 6 (Hayden), Saint-Maximin 7 (Almiron); Joelinton 8; Wilson 7. Subs not used: Darlow, Hendrick, Krafth, Murphy, Gayle, Longstaff.
NUFC Man of the Match: Joelinton - was everywhere for Newcastle.