Fans returned to St James’ Park for the first time in 14 months on Wednesday night and witnessed their side take all three points against already relegated Sheffield United in their final home game of the season.
Joe Willock’s goal right on the stroke of half time sent Newcastle United into the break full of confidence, and despite their second half showing not being as fluid and dominant, they held on for the win in front of 10,000 Geordies.
Newcastle Head Coach, Steve Bruce, has provided his full-time thoughts on their final home outing in the 2020/21 Premier League campaign.
“Supporters are a different spectacle.”
The Magpies were one top-flight side who have been unable to welcome fans through the gates since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
Some sides were fortunate enough to welcome limited numbers in December during the government’s somewhat unsuccessful tier system, however Newcastle were not one of them.
The visit of the Blades finally gave the Newcastle players a chance to get back in front of supporters and Bruce felt that even the 10,000 in attendance at the 52,305 capacity stadium made a huge difference.
He now also hopes that this big step back towards normality returning will allow full capacity crowds back in the near future.
“Some of our attacking play was great to watch.”
On another day, Newcastle could have perhaps had at least one more goal.
Jonjo Shelvey was denied by the excellent Aaron Ramsdale midway through the first half at the Gallowgate End which was the best chance barring the eventual goal just before the break.
If some of the decision making was better in the second half, then it could have even been more.
However, the Newcastle boss was largely pleased with what he saw from his team on the front foot.
“I don’t think Dubravka is too bad.”
Those in attendance at St James’ Park would rightly have been concerned when they saw their goalkeeper, Martin Dubravka, struggling towards the end of the game.
With second choice, Karl Darlow, already out injured, Bruce doesn’t want to have to be missing two of his shot-stoppers going into the final day clash at another relegated outfit, Fulham.
An injury to Dubravka would only leave Mark Gillespie, a goalkeeper who has no Premier League experience.
The Toon’s number one will need to be assessed before the trip to Craven Cottage on Sunday, however his boss feels that he may well have a chance to play if his injury isn’t as bad as first feared.
“To go six in six is a remarkable achievement.”
Joe Willock was on target yet again for Newcastle, meaning that he has now scored six goals in his last six appearances.
This also made the Arsenal loanee the youngest ever Premier League player to achieve this, and the first Newcastle man to score in this many games in a row since Papiss Cisse in 2012.
Willock’s arrival has certainly added a new dimension to Newcastle United, and his arrival in January has coincided with the huge upturn in form.
Not for the first time this season, Bruce sang the praises of the player he was keen to bring in for some time and the midfielder has definitely re-paid his faith in him.
“ Allan’s still got a lot to do but certainly his talent is there for everybody to see.”
It has been hard to really feel the excitement that Allan Saint-Maximin brings to a crowd over the last year with artificial crowd noise hardly doing it justice.
Wednesday evening brought that buzz to life though, and the noise backed that up every time he got the ball.
His first instinct is always to drive forwards, and the Sheffield United defence struggled to deal with him, something summed up in the build-up to the only goal of the game when everyone seemed to be drawn to him leaving space for Jacob Murphy out on the wing.
His skill and pace is impressive but Bruce did admit that his final product may need to improve moving forwards. Newcastle have a top player on their hands who still had potential to improve even more so fans will be desperate to see him remain at St James’ Park.