Miles Starforth's verdict as 'unexciting' Newcastle United finally get on the front foot

For too long Newcastle United have, in Steve Bruce’s words, been a “work in progress”.

Sunday, 1st November 2020, 4:04 pm
Callum Wilson is mobbed by his team-mates.

And supporters – who had become impatient after a series of disappointing performances – finally saw some tangible progress at St James’s Park this afternoon.

Bruce's side deservedly beat Everton 2-1 in a behind-closed-doors game thanks to two goals from Callum Wilson.

Newcastle, up to 10th in the table, were both resilient without the ball and resourceful in possession. They were a threat on the counter-attack, though Allan Saint-Maximin, again, was nowhere near his best in a central role.

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Miguel Almiron.

Roy Keane had backed Steve Bruce, his former Manchester United team-mate, ahead of the game, though he didn't back him to excite fans.

"I know he’s been criticised for not being very exciting to watch, but I don’t think they have the players for it,” said Keane on Sky Sports. “Newcastle haven’t been exciting for years, and even when they were exciting they never won anything.

"I they’ll certainly be in and around mid-table, and that’s down to Bruce. I don’t think they will be exciting to watch. I don’t think that will change quickly.”

Bruce had addressed his online critics, the so-called “keyboard warriors”, before the game, and this performance – and result – should buy United's head coach some more time.

There’d been a defensive improvement from Newcastle a week earlier in the 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux, and Bruce had wanted an improvement with the ball against Everton.

To that end, he made one change, and replaced Ryan Fraser with Sean Longstaff, one of the best passers of the ball at the club.

Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, “rested” Jordan Pickford after a series of high-profile errors and the controversy over his challenge on Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.

Bruce fielded Saint-Maximin, quiet against Wolves, up front with Wilson, who put an early chance of Everton’s goal.

Newcastle probed away looking for openings, and pressed Everton well when out of possession, in the early stages. For all the visitors’ possession, they struggled to get the ball to Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the box.

Wilson, like Calvert Lewin, was having to do his work outside the opposition area, and it was a clever pass from the striker after a good break forward from Miguel Almiron which created a 33rd-minute chance for Saint-Maximin. Rob Olsen, starting ahead of Pickford, was equal to Saint-Maximin’s tame shot.

That was the only chance of the half, but things would get more interesting after the break.

Wilson went down in the box after being kicked from behind any Andre Gomes, and the striker stepped up to take the spot kick after a long VAR wait.

The summer signing beat Olsen with a superb penalty, his third of the season, and minutes later the goalkeeper denied Longstaff after he was played in by Wilson.

Newcastle – who had spent much of the Wolves game on the back foot – retreated after taking the lead. Ancelotti made two changes – he sent on Bernard and Cenk Tosun, Alex Iwobi – but they struggled to get in behind the team.

And substitute Ryan Fraser set up Wilson for a second goal after a brilliant run forward. Calvert Lewin scored a late consolation goal for the visitors.

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