Quality counted for Newcastle yesterday as Barnsley were sent crashing to a 3-0 defeat in their final game of their Championship season.
The Reds had their moments at St James’ Park as the Magpies were to go on to celebrate title glory, but Rafa Benitez’s men came up with three clinical finishes from big money men Ayoze Perez, Chancel Mbemba and hot-shot Dwight Gayle.
The game had started brightly for the Reds, but they were second best after the opening goal was scored and ended their terrific season back in the second tier on a closing run of just one win from their final 14 games.
Disappointed Reds boss Paul Heckingbottom said: “We started brightly, but once they got a goal they were on top.
“We still had plenty of possession, but we didn’t really cause them any problems.
“There wasn’t enough delivery into the box. We had bodies in there, but the deliveries weren’t.
“The big difference was the quality, though - the quality in the final third in particular.
“Theirs was immense, and that was probably the difference.
“Work rate, organisation and the application from our players was good, but there was a massive gulf in that final third quality.
“Newcastle were the better side. For us, we have to get everything right at a place like this. We have to play the perfect game if you like, and we just didn’t.”
Newcastle took the lead after 23 minutes when DeAndre Yedlin fizzed in a cross for Perez, who finished neatly from close range.
Both sides had good chances either side of that goal in the opening period.
Tom Bradshaw went closest for the Reds, while Christian Atsu forced two top-drawer saves out of Adam Davies.
The Magpies went two up when defender Mbemba rammed home a rebound after Davies initially saved superbly from Perez.
A minute from time sub Gayle scored his 23rd Championship goal of the season from eight yards.
half the team will go
Reds boss Paul Heckingbottom hinted that a huge team rebuilding exercise could be on the cards this summer.
After yesterday’s Championship final-day defeat at Newcastle, the Barnsley manager admitted: “More than half of those players might not play for us again.
“We’ve got players out of contract and five on loan who’ll be going of course.
“It’s those players’ careers going forward that they’re interested in now, but we’ve got to focus on who’s going to be here with us next season.
“It’s sad that there’s going to be another break-up of a team, but we’ll have to start again and make another one.
“I’m going to be speaking to the players on Tuesday, and then it’ll be about getting as many good players through the door as we can.”
Busy Oakwell summer
It will not be a quiet summer for Paul Heckingbottom as he put preparations in place for next season. Make no mistake, the season just gone will be seen as a successful and largely positive one for the Reds.
This time last year they were gearing up for the League One play-offs of course, and they negotiated those games before going on make a terrific start to this season in the much, much tougher second tier.
However, losing the likes of Conor Hourihane, Sam Winnall and James Bree in January would affect any side at this level, and that it did to the boys from Oakwell.
The second half of the season was nowhere near as spectacular, meaning new faces are sure to be high on Heckingbottom’s priority list when he returns from his holidays.
Hopefully the Oakwell board will back the manager with funding - they generally do - so expect incomings - and doubtless a few outgoings too - during the close season.