Newcastle United have reason to be cautious over our chances of claiming a third-straight top-flight win next Monday, after the Premier League announced that Lee Mason will be the referee at Aston Villa.
Steve Bruce’s Magpies travel to Birmingham at the start of next week carrying stellar form after recording back-to-back triumphs over West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth – our first consecutive wins of the league campaign.
Villa, meanwhile, go into the game on the back of consecutive defeats, after losing at home to Liverpool at the start of the month before losing at Wolverhampton Wanderers in their final game prior to the international break.
Dean Smith’s side will be desperate to bring a halt to their poor run coming out of the November internationals, and will likely be boosted by Mason being named as the referee for Monday’s game.
Mason has been one of the league’s least called upon officials this term, as the Premier League have only tasked the 48-year-old with overseeing five games thus far – the 13th most of the 18 referees used.
His last outing in the centre came as Manchester City beat Southampton 2-1 at the start of November, having officiated one top-flight game in October alongside Sheffield Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic in the Championship and Aston Villa’s 2-1 Carabao Cup victory over Wolves.
Villa beating their West Midlands rival in the cup should spark some concern at St. James’ Park that we face a stronger test when we travel to Birmingham next week, as Smith’s men faced questions over their mentality in the previous game with Mason in charge.
The Villans twice let leads slip at home to Burnley in September, sparking suggestions that last season’s Championship Play-Off victors had a mental block about going ahead in the Premier League.
Smith refuted the suggestions, but the signs from the game suggested such, as Villa had dominated the flow of proceedings yet allowed Chris Wood to pull the Clarets level just two minutes after John McGinn restored the Birmingham-based outfit’s advantage.
But against Wolves in the EFL Cup, Villa were the side to strike back immediately after conceding, with Ahmed Elmohamady firing home his first goal in over a year three minutes after Patrick Cutrone pulled the Molineux natives level.
What will the result be at Villa?
That said, Bruce will have some reason for optimism heading into our next league game, as we are unbeaten in our last five games with Mason in the middle – winning four.
Assistants Scott Ledger and Mark Scholes will join Mason at Villa Park, while Tim Robinson will be the fourth official. Jarred Gillett will be in charge of VAR at Stockley Park, where Daniel Cook will be his number two.