In the space of seven minutes at Turf Moor, Allan Saint-Maximin came on and set up one goal – and scored an all-important winner.
Saint-Maximin, like Callum Wilson has been a big, big miss since February – and before then when he was out with the after-effects of a Covid-19 infection – as he’s unplayable on his day.
Burnley, certainly, couldn’t stop him after his second-half introduction. He changed the game.
The 2-1 win over Burnley has edged the club closer to safety. Newcastle, 17th in the Premier League, are now six points above third-bottom Fulham with a game in hand.
Bruce had erred on the side of caution and named Saint-Maximin and Wilson on the bench at Turf Moor. Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark replaced the injured Jamaal Lascelles and Emil Krafth.
United’s head coach kept the same 5-3-2 system, with Matt Ritchie and Jacob Murphy used as wing-backs, and fielded Dwight Gayle up front with Joelinton.
Four successive defeats for third-bottom Fulham had given Newcastle fans renewed hope ahead of the club’s visit to Turf Moor.
Bruce’s side had taken four points from a possible 15 ahead of the game. Bruce has spoken a lot about the “accumulation of points” this season, and he’s right. Newcastle have been accumulating points, only far too slowly.
The return of Saint-Maximin and Wilson could change all that.
Martin Dubravka had to stop an early header from Josh Brownhill at the other end of the pitch. Dubravka, however, would be picking the ball out of his net in the 17th minute. Chris Wood took the ball after a poor clearance from Clark, and was allowed to run into the box, where he picked out Matej Vydra, who beat Dubravka with a close-range finish.
It was a disappointing, and stoppable, goal from United’s point of view. Clark, uncomfortable against Wood as the middle defender, should have stopped Wood before he found the unmarked Vydra.
Gayle forced a save from Peacock-Farrell from a Murphy, and James Tarkowski caught Longstaff in the head when he cleared the ball with a dangerously high boot. However, no penalty was given after a VAR check, a decision which stunned Bruce and his players given that the challenge would have been deemed a foul anywhere else on the pitch.
Bruce sent out an unchanged team for the second half, and Dubravka stopped a long-range shot from Matthew Lowton.
Wilson and Saint-Maximin were sent on in the 57th minute – they replaced Gayle and Joelinton up front – and it didn’t take long for the change to pay dividends.
Saint-Maximin took the ball to the right byline two minutes after coming on – and three Burnley players went with him. The winger cut the ball back for Murphy, who placed the ball in the bottom left-hand corner of the goal. The winger, out of contract at the end of the season, kissed the badge on his shirt after scoring.
The best was yet to come. Saint-Maximin took the ball in the centre circle in the 64th minute and ran. And ran. He turned inside James Tarkowski, and on to his left foot, before striking a low shot which rolled into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.