Steve Bruce, finally, deserves credit at Newcastle United

A draw would have been a good result. Newcastle United, after all, had been on the back foot for much of the game’s 94 minutes.

Saturday, 18th January 2020, 7:47 pm
Isaac Hayden celebrates his goal. (Pic: Martin Swinney)

Yet Steve Bruce’s side, remarkably, took all three points thanks to a goal from Isaac Hayden deep into injury time. The club is now 12th in the Premier League with 29 points – and Bruce deserves some of the credit.

Bruce’s team lacked quality on the ball in tonight’s 1-0 win over Chelsea, but they didn’t lack spirit and commitment, and those two qualities got them through a tough evening at St James’s Park.

They had their backs to the wall for much of the game, and an exhausted Allan Saint-Maximin, back from injury, delivered the late, late cross which was headed home by Hayden.

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Isaac Hayden celebrates his goal.

The win, however, came at a cost. Bruce had spoken about the club’s injury problems easing before the game. However, he lost another player early in the fixture.

Jetro Willems went down and beat the turf in frustration, seemingly knowing the severity of the injury. The defender, signed on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt, was stretchered off to applause.

Matt Ritchie replaced Willems and United pressed on. Federico Fernandez made the first of a series of runs up the right and crossed for Joelinton, who had scored only his second goal in Tuesday night’s 4-1 FA Cup win over Rochdale. The striker’s header struck the crossbar.

Chelsea put Newcastle under pressure late in the half, but Bruce’s side stood firm, though they were fortunate an error from Jonjo Shelvey didn’t cost them a goal.

Jetro Willems.

United, unchanged for the second half, found themselves on the back foot again.

Newcastle needed Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, playing either side of Joelinton, to relieve the pressure, but Chelsea kept on coming. United retreated, and Bruce sent on Sean Longstaff.

Martin Dubravka and Matt Ritchie combined to stop a shot from Tammy Abraham. Joelinton put a rare Newcastle chance wide at the other end of the pitch.

After more pressure from Chelsea, United won a 94th-minute corner. Ritchie’s ball was cleared by Willian, and Saint-Maximin delivered a ball which was headed home by Hayden.

Cue bedlam inside St James's Park.