Siem de Jong hopes that Steve McClaren will keep faith with him over the festive period – even though failed to gift-wrap three points for Newcastle United on Saturday.
The forward should have claimed all three points for the relegation-threatened Magpies against Aston Villa on a saturated St James’s Park pitch.
As it was, Newcastle had to settle for a point from a 1-1 draw.
With Steve McClaren’s side leading through a first-half Fabricio Coloccini goal, de Jong put a headed chance wide of Brad Guzan’s goal as the hour-mark approached.
Within minutes, Jordan Ayew levelled for basement club Villa.
“It was an important moment,” said de Jong, who hopes to keep his place for the Boxing Day home game against Everton.
“I tried to head it into the short corner, but I did it 5cm too far. I was trying to place it, because I saw the keeper at the far post and so I wanted to head it short, but it slipped off my head.
“Of course, I wanted to score it. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I went off after that, but we had two other chances to win it.”
De Jong’s only goal this season came in August’s Capital One Cup win over Northampton Town.
And the 26-year-old – who has started the Tynesiders’ last three games ahead of Ayoze Perez – is desperate to get off the mark in the Premier League this season.
“It’s not so much that I need a goal, it’s just that I want to take the chances that I get,” said the Holland international.
“In the first half, I played all right with some through balls, but the way we played made it difficult for me to get on the ball as much as I wanted.
“I think the balls that I got were all right, but I wanted to take my chances.”
De Jong missed most of last season, his first on Tyneside, through injury, and the former Ajax captain is enjoying his first run of starts under McClaren.
“Obviously it’s tough for me,” he said. “These are my first few games in the Premier League.
“I’d only started one game before this run and it’s still something I’m getting used to. I’m doing what I can to help the team.
“I’m enjoying it. I’m happy to be on the pitch. I want to help the team as much as I can, and I could have scored for 2-0, and I’m frustrated about not scoring.
“But I’m happy to be back and playing. This was a tough game on a tough pitch, and I had a little bit of a cold so I couldn’t play longer. Hopefully, I can get 90 minutes in the coming weeks.”
McClaren talked about the importance of de Jong’s “experience” after picking him ahead of Perez.
De Jong said: “The last three games up top we’ve changed it a bit and we’ve tried to press more. We talk to each other more about what we are doing and I think that’s working quite well.
“I you see the last three games, it wasn’t our best performance, but I think in the first half we made it impossible for Villa to play.
“They had to kick it long and we won a lot of balls.
“The second half they changed it and put on the big striker, and they scored for 1-1. After that, we came back into it and had chances.”
De Jong feels Newcastle are making progress under McClaren.
“I feel we are making steps,” he said. “Even (against Villa), when it was not our best performance, we got a draw.
“We had a couple of games when our performance dropped too much, but everyone knows that in the team and in the last three games we have been at a much better level.
Of course you’re going to lose sometimes, but we have got to fight and make opponents work very hard if they’re going to get a win.
“That’s what we’re trying to do at the moment, and hope that we can continue that and get some more points.”
Aleksandar Mitrovic is on standby to start at home to Everton on Boxing Day, after fellow striker Papiss Cisse pulled up with what looked to be a hamstring injury in the first half against Villa.
Cisse – who has started the last three games ahead of Mitrovic – was today being assessed. The 30-year-old is doubtful for Newcastle’s festive programme, which also features trips to West Brom and Arsenal.
Newcastle: Elliot, Janmaat, Mbemba, Coloccini, Dummett, Sissoko, Anita (Thauvin 71), Colback, Wijnaldum, De Jong (Perez 59), Cisse (Mitrovic 33). Subs not used: Gouffran, Tiote, Darlow, Mbabu. Booked: Dummett. Goal: Coloccini 38.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Okore, Lescott, Bacuna, Westwood, Sanchez, Gana, Veretout, Sinclair (Gestede 60), Ayew. Subs not used: Clark, Richardson, Traore, Gil, Bunn, Grealish. Booked: Bacuna, Ayew, Westwood. Goal: Ayew 61.
Att: 48,234. Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).