Newcastle extended their unbeaten run to a club record-equalling 17 league games but were forced to settle for a point on Eddie Howe’s return to Bournemouth.

Having spent more than 10 years as Bournemouth manager across two spells, Howe was back at the Vitality Stadium with his Newcastle side pushing for a Champions League spot and his old club stuck in the bottom three.

However, it was Bournemouth who went in front after half an hour when Dango Ouattara flicked on a corner and Marcos Senesi was left unmarked at the far post to stab home.

Miguel Almiron equalised for the Magpies in first-half stoppage time, firing into the bottom corner after Bournemouth goalkeeper Neto had kept out Sean Longstaff’s shot following good work down the left by Allan Saint-Maximin.

Anthony Gordon missed a glorious opportunity to put Newcastle in front in the 70th minute and although the visitors pressed for a winner late on, it was Bournemouth who came closest to taking all three points when Dominic Solanke’s flick was cleared off the line by Kieran Trippier in the last minute of the 90.

Newcastle stay fourth after a fifth draw in six Premier League games, while Bournemouth move to within a point of safety but stay 19th.

Newcastle miss opportunity to strengthen grip on top four

It shows how far Newcastle have come under Howe that there will be frustration following a result that keeps gives them a two-point cushion in fourth.

But while they are still far exceeding pre-season expectations, they now hold themselves to a higher standard and, up against a side battling relegation, they failed to meet it.

Bruno Guimaraes was serving the second game of a three-match ban and was sorely missed in the midfield, particularly during an uncharacteristically sloppy first-half showing.

There was an improvement in the second half but save for Gordon’s gilt-edged chance when Neto spilled Saint-Maximin’s shot and smothered Longstaff’s follow-up, Newcastle chances were at a premium.

It is a third straight draw and fifth in six games, and while a point at Arsenal can be seen as a point gained, draws with Leeds, Crystal Palace, West Ham and Bournemouth fall closer to the two points dropped category.

For all that a top-four finish this season would appear to show Newcastle are ahead of schedule under Howe, in a season in which Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham are all under-performing to differing extents, a better chance may be a long time coming.

Newcastle are still ahead of the chasing pack, and with the Carabao Cup final to come as well there is every reason for optimism and enthusiasm at St James’ Park, but they will hope this run of draws does not result in a feeling of ‘what might have been’ come the end of the season.

Kesh Awefada

Kesh Awefada

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