Moments before Ruben Neves equalised for the Wanderers, taking two points off of the relegation-threatened Magpies, Emil Krafth was replaced by Matt Ritchie in yet another injury for the side.
When the substitution was made in the 72nd minute, Ritchie was tasked with delivering some instructions on behalf of manager Steve Bruce and assistant Graeme Jones.
Ritchie was supposed to inform Isaac Hayden that he needed to switch to a right centre-back as part of a defensive five, whilst Jacob Murphy should’ve been shifted to right wing-back.
The Scotsman failed to deliver the messages in time, after offering some instructions to Arsenal loanee Joe Willock, Ritchie only had time to convey the tactics to Hayden before the ball was in play again.
With Murphy not receiving the message at all, he remained on the left-wing when play resumed, which caused the problem that led to the goal.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side broke forward on the right flank, as Pedro Neto marched down, Hayden was left in no man’s land – he had Adama Traore and Neves to watch.
Neto floated a cross into the area, as Hayden couldn’t contest the midfielder in time with his eyes on Traore, Neves was left free to head the ball into the back of the net.
If the instructions had made it to Murphy, Hayden would be positioned to clear the ball as a right centre-back in the middle, as Murphy would’ve been tracking Traore at right wing-back.
Ritchie delivered the message to Murphy after the goal, the winger was completely shocked and it was all too little, too late for the Magpies. Their lead was gone and the tie ended 1-1.
The Magpies only sit three points ahead of Fulham, who are 18th in the Premier League. With a run of three defeats from their last five and numerous key players injured, they face a difficult task to stay up.