After a frustrating week in the transfer market, Newcastle United were able to dig deep and pick up three points on the pitch with Jonjo Shelvey’s 75th minute free-kick securing a 1-0 win at Leeds United.
Here are Dominic Scurr's five takeaways from the match…
Willock’s chance to impress
It was Willock’s first start for The Magpies since the 4-0 defeat to Manchester City where he was hauled off at half-time.
On the bench, Ciaran Clark, Jeff Hendrick and Dwight Gayle returned from their respective injuries and illnesses while Javier Manquillo was back as a substitute following his suspension.
After a frustrating first half where he failed to really impact the match, Willock’s ability to take the ball forward helped stretch Leeds as The Magpies secured victory.
The 22-year-old also came close to scoring himself only to be denied by a good save from Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier late on.
It’s been a difficult season for Willock since signing for Newcastle permanently but this was arguably his best performance of the campaign so far.
But Sean Longstaff, Javier Manquillo and Ciaran Clark all put in good shifts from the bench in their place. Manquillo even won the free-kick which led to the winner.
On the injury front, Howe commented: “Joelinton’s been suffering with a groin problem since I arrived. We’ve been managing him through the games. He’s been down in several games, and today it’s come to that. That was a big disappointment with the form he’s been in.
"Paul Dummett was probably a lesser surprise with the fact he’s had limited training time since he’s come back from injury. I think there’s probably a lot of fatigue in that, so I’m not sure how serious that one is. We’ll see. Hopefully it’s not too bad.
"Jamaal Lascelles was a difficult one, I think it was his hamstring. He went down quite awkwardly. We’ll have to assess that. A huge blow, and we’re stretched anyway. That was the big disappointment today.”
England manager Gareth Southgate was in attendance at Elland Road on Saturday ahead of the upcoming international friendlies in March.
Kieran Trippier is in with a reasonable shout of being the first Newcastle player to be called up to the England squad since Andros Townsend in 2016.
And the 31-year-old’s performances since arriving from Atletico Madrid will have done his chances of making the England squad no harm as he put in another classy display at right-back.
Shelvey also impressed in midfield with a goal and a fine volley which was well saved by Meslier. Though he will need to continue to raise his level of performances over the next month or so in order to be in with even an outside chance of earning his first cap since 2015.
Realistically, it’s difficult to see any Newcastle player other than Trippier sparking Southgate’s interest at the moment.
Howe’s 200th game celebration
The match marked Howe’s 200th Premier League match as a manager as he picked up his second win since taking charge at Newcastle.
It was a match where The Magpies had to weather some early pressure from the hosts but ultimately limited them to just one meaningful effort on goal through Dan James which was well saved by Martin Dubravka.
Shelvey’s low curling free-kick eluded Meslier and the stretching Fabian Schar and Clark before nestling in the bottom right corner of the goal.
It was the goal that proved to be the difference as Howe’s side continued to apply the pressure and make the most of the stretched game in search of a second goal.
It was a refreshing change of pace from previous games where Newcastle had taken the lead and gone into their shell, inviting pressure on and ultimately conceding.
This time they saw the game out with relative ease and could have extended their lead further late on.
And Howe’s overall Premier League record now stands at 200 games, 58 wins, 47 draws and 95 defeats.
Just what was needed
After a ‘fruitless’ week in the transfer window, as Howe put it, Newcastle got the three points that mattered on the Saturday as they head into the final week of the transfer window and a break to Saudi Arabia with a much needed win on the board.
Positivity around transfers surrounded Newcastle’s previous matches against Watford and Cambridge United but they ultimately failed to get the job done on the pitch. While transfers are important for Newcastle, they are irrelevant if they don’t pick up wins on the back of them.
It was an interesting contrast where transfer frustration was followed by a vital victory which is the only thing that will help in the battle to avoid relegation.
Newcastle now sit 18th in the table, just a point behind Norwich City in 17th but they have a game in hand and superior goal difference to The Canaries.
After travelling to Saudi Arabia this coming week and playing a friendly match against Al Ittihad in Jeddah on Friday, Newcastle’s next competitive match is against Everton on February 8 at St James’s Park.
Back to back wins for The Magpies could see them climb out of the bottom three for the first time since October and close the gap on The Toffees to just a point.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet!