Steve Bruce fumed at Andy Madley’s VAR-inspired penalty award as Sheffield United left his side eight without a win, but vowed to carry on as Newcastle manager.
Newcastle earned themselves the ignominious role of becoming the first side beaten by Sheffield United in the Premier League since July 11 on Tuesday night as the pressure increased on Bruce, whose own winless run extends back to December 12 and has seen his team crash out of both domestic cup competitions in that time.
The Blades’ 1-0 victory was earned thanks to a Billy Sharp penalty, awarded after referee Madley was advised to visit the VAR review monitor having originally played on following what he would later deem Federico Fernandez’s handball in the visitors’ box.
Sharp would later find himself lucky to avoid punishment courtesy of the video assistant himself, when penalised with only a yellow card for a studs-up challenge on Fabian Schar’s ankle in the closing minutes.
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“I have to say the decision for the penalty is poor,” Bruce told Sky Sports. “I’m asking the referee now why when he doesn’t give it to start with he says Fedi’s intentionally handled it, I don’t see how he can say that – when you’re running, your arms are going to move, and it looked a foul to me. Billy Sharp’s got a hold of his shirt.
“I thought the referee got it spot on when he didn’t give it, if that’s intentional handball and VAR’s supposed to be clear and obvious.
“The big clear and obvious one, I don’t want to see people sent off but Billy Sharp’s challenge on Fabian Schar was a disgrace.
“He’s lucky that he hasn’t done any serious damage to him. Those clear and obvious ones are supposed to be why VAR is here. We’ve spoken about it too much, we might not have got anything from the game but for it to be decided on something like that is poor.”
Bruce vows to continue at St James’ Park
Newcastle remain 15th after their latest winless game, albeit their eight-point gap to 18th-placed Fulham could be drastically reduced thanks to the Cottagers’ two games in hand, but with pressure mounting on the boyhood Magpies fan, Bruce came out fighting in his post-match press conference.
“I’ll never ever walk away from a challenge,” he told reporters. “I’ve been in it long enough to have that respect, but I understand especially watching the first half – we weren’t good enough and I take the responsibility for that, because I picked the team.
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“We’ve been trying something different because over the last few weeks we’ve struggled going forward, so my thoughts were to get Ryan, someone fresh, and Sean higher up the pitch where he could be a goal threat. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.
“I think we’ve had, apart from the last month which we knew would be difficult with the run of fixtures we’ve had, we’ve given ourselves a decent start to the season.”
Wilder: It’s been coming
“It’s been a long-time coming for a lot of people in the club, far too long. Supporters and the players, I’m delighted for those two groups of people,” Wilder said.
“Obviously, being down to 10 men made it a bit easier and the penalty did too, but I’d be disappointed if that took away from a decent performance from us.
“I’ve said all along, everyone who’s played against us, top sides and everyone else, are possibly scratching their head about the position we’re in, we’ve been competitive in 90 per cent of the games. But it is what it is, the results haven’t been good enough.
“I felt it was coming, first half we set the game up to give us a foothold and platform to win the game. I was delighted in the way we played, we looked like we had an identity, we look like we’ve slipped a bit with that before.
“That was us – handbrake off, going for it in and out of possession, and I was delighted with the performance and it’s a big result because of the length of time since we last had one of them.
“The season isn’t done in January. We’ve got a big task, a huge challenge in front of us, but if we keep playing like that, then we can pick points up and make it interesting.”
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