* Newcastle frustrated in a goalless draw against Brighton
* Brighton goalkeeper Mathew Ryan tipped Isaac Hayden’s deflected shot wide
* Karl Darlow saved Brighton midfielder Davy Propper’s freekick in the 54th minute
* Dwight Gayle’s close-range headed effort forced Ryan to make a diving save in the 58th
* Newcastle failed to score for the fourth time in December
* Newcastle visit Stoke City next, Brighton host Bournemouth (Adds quotes, details)
Dec 30 (Reuters) - Newcastle United’s lean run on the scoring front continued as they were held to a goalless draw by Brighton and Hove Albion in a scrappy Premier League encounter at St James’ Park on Saturday.
After an uneventful first half, Newcastle came closest to scoring when midfielder Isaac Hayden’s deflected strike from the edge of the box forced a stunning fingertip save from Brighton goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.
Ryan was again called into action, with another diving save, to keep striker Dwight Gayle’s headed effort away from goal.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez introduced Ayoze Perez and Jacob Murphy to freshen up their attack but lack of clear-cut opportunities meant the hosts failed to score for the fourth time in seven matches this month.
The draw ended Newcastle’s run of five consecutive home defeats but also meant they slipped to 16th in the league standings, while Brighton remain 12th.
“We are not happy because we wanted to win. They were controlling the tempo of the game, it is a pity but at least the team was fighting,” Benitez said.
“You have to try and get three points from these types of games. In the second half we had more chances, we were pushing hard. That was a positive thing.”
Brighton lacked the attacking firepower to test the Newcastle defensive line but manager Chris Hughton was satisfied with a crucial point on the road.
“Not many chances in it and you could sense the nervousness in front of goal from both sides but we were very worthy of the point and probably deserved a bit more,” Hughton said.
“We had really good periods of possession in both halves and those are the moments you have to get your goal. A difficult game, never an easy one here and I’m reasonably satisfied with the point.”
Newcastle visit Stoke City on New Year’s Day, while Brighton host Bournemouth. (Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon and Pritha Sarkar)