Steve Bruce was left searching desperately for positives after seeing his Newcastle team scrape a 0-0 draw against Brighton at St James’ Park.
The Magpies were second best but for the final throes of the game when substitutes Andy Carroll and Allan Saint-Maximin belatedly threatened to snatch a win they did not deserve after a woeful first-half display which improved only marginally after the break.
Head coach Bruce, who has matched Steve McClaren’s feat of winning none of his first three Premier League home games, insisted he always knew a tough fixture list was going to prove testing for a new-look team.
He said: “I always knew it was going to be difficult. It was always going to be with the start we’ve had. In the first half in particular we were disappointed, but we’ve taken away something from it.
“The introduction of the subs – if Allan stays fit and big Andy stays fit, then certainly they’re a threat at the top end of the pitch.”
A game played out in front of a crowd of 43,316, the lowest Premier League attendance at St James’ Park for almost nine years, saw the Seagulls enjoy 71 per cent of the possession as they over-ran their hosts in the first half.
That said, Miguel Almiron and Joelinton both wasted excellent chances to put the Magpies ahead, and they had defender Fabian Schar to thank for their point when he hooked substitute Aaron Connolly’s attempt off the line in the nick of time.
Bruce said: “The ironic thing when you analyse it is the big chances which I have just seen us have were obviously the better ones and unless we starting taking those…
“If you look at the chances we’ve had, they are big chances at this level. They are arguably better than what Brighton had.
“Even though they have had 70 per cent of possession, we’ve probably had the best chances out there, which is a disappointment that we haven’t taken one.”
Brighton boss Graham Potter left Tyneside reflecting on what might have been after his players failed to turn an impressive display into three points, with Connolly coming agonisingly close to doing just that.
Asked if he thought the substitute had claimed the points, he said: “It looked like it from where I was, but apparently it was a few millimetres away. That’s life.
“The hardest thing in football is to put the ball in the net, of course, but we need to carry on, we need to maintain the level we’re performing at and hopefully we can get more positive results.
“That’s football, especially at this level. You can do a lot well and be undone by one action, two actions, but that’s the challenge.
“We have to focus on the performance over the 90 minutes and maintain and improve that performance and if we do that, then the final bit comes.”