Steve Bruce must axe Jeff Hendrick from his Newcastle United starting line-up after another torrid afternoon for the midfielder in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Everton, who has come under regular criticism from fans for his displays.
The Magpies often looked the stronger of the two sides despite being winless in 11 ahead of travelling to Goodison Park, with the visitors clearly buoyed from the encouraging second half produced in defeat to Leeds United during the week.
They failed to make the pressure count in the opening period with Callum Wilson firing over and forcing Jordan Pickford to produce a fingertip save to keep the score level, but found a breakthrough in the 73rd-minute by turning home Jonjo Shelvey’s corner and later bagged a brace in stoppage time.
Wilson was able to constantly keep the pressure on the Everton backline thanks to a greater level of service into the ex-AFC Bournemouth frontman, who had been starved of opportunities to break his drought in recent weeks to go seven games without a goal.
Miguel Almiron and Ryan Fraser were never afraid to drive forward in support of the England international, who also proved the welcome recipient of a number of crosses from Jamal Lewis with the full-back comfortably more at ease with going forward than in recent weeks.
Despite conceding 10 goals in their past six Premier League games, Newcastle further looked much more defensively solid to keep Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison quiet. Even though the Toon heavily lacked energy in midfield from either of Hendrick or Shelvey.
Bruce will at least take some comfort in Shelvey’s deliveries from set-pieces when reviewing his side’s performance, but will struggle to find any positives from Hendrick who once again only proved to hold Newcastle back with his lack of importance in the engine room.
The Republic of Ireland international got around the pitch plenty, yet would likely have not been missed had Bruce started one of the Longstaff brothers, Sean and Matty, or had the services of loan transfer target Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury available to call on.
Hendrick was given his 15th start of the season at Everton and fifth in Newcastle’s last six games across all competitions, to emerge as one of Bruce’s current favourites having only missed 78 of possible 540 minutes in 2021 thus far.
But he would end Saturday with the third-lowest match rating from WhoScored by those who opened the action for the Toon at 6.9 out of 10 – only Jamal Lascelles (6.7), who was hooked after 54 minutes, and Fraser (6.8) scored lower.
Hendrick scored poorly having been dispossessed three times – only Callum Wilson (7) lost the ball more often – and failing to produce a single successful tackle or clearance having never made a legitimate play for the ball outside of two interceptions.
Despite driving the Magpies up the pitch with two successful dribbles from three attempts, the £8m-rated midfielder further was only able to create a goalscoring chance from a corner when Wilson flicked his delivery goalwards in the 30th-minute.
Never did Hendrick strike an effort on Pickford’s goal himself and only took one touch inside the Toffees’ penalty area, helped partly through losing each of his two offensive aerial duels.
His questionable tackling came close to seeing the £40,000-per-week midfielder shown a straight red card in the closing stages, too, with Hendrick rash in lunging in for a loose ball and planting his studs on Richarlison’s boot.
If Bruce is to now build on Newcastle’s emerging form, he will need to bench Hendrick or risk seeing the promising performances go to waste.
AND in other news, Newcastle could part with a £30k-p/w dynamo before the end of the month…