Newcastle United now have a blueprint for Premier League survival

Is this the start of something – or the end of something? Or both?

Sunday, 31st January 2021, 11:00 am
Callum Wilson and Steve Bruce at Goodison Park.

What is clear is that this was the best Newcastle United have played in a long, long time – and the team deserved yesterday’s 2-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park.

Steve Bruce had said that Graeme Jones would bring “fresh ideas” to the club – and this was a much, much fresher performance.

The result ended a 11-game run without a win in all competitions and stretched the gap between Newcastle and third-bottom Fulham to eight points.

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"There's no disputing it – it's been very difficult," said Bruce. "You have to be brave, and make these decisions.

"We're trying to be more on the front foot – and push up the pitch. That's something we want to do more. We're a lot better.

"The players have enjoyed the change, certainly by looking at that performance today. What you need is a result to go with it, so today, of course, everybody's happy."

Jones, the second-favourite with bookmakers to succeed Bruce at St James’s Park, had got to work at the club on the eve of the Premier League fixture.

Steve Agnew, Graeme Jones and Steve Bruce.

And Bruce’s new assistant made his presence felt on the touchline at Goodison Park, where Miguel Almiron shone. The team played positive, attacking football – and pressed high up the pitch.

Callum Wilson – who scored both goals – linked well with Almiron, fielded as a No.10, and Ryan Fraser up front.

Bruce – who had demanded more “respect” from journalists covering the club before the game – had made one change. Javier Manquillo replaced Jacob Murphy in the starting XI, and Allan Saint-Maximin was again on the bench.

Everton took the game to Newcastle in the first 15 minutes. Yerry Mina had an early chance at a bitterly cold Goodison Park, the scene of a remarkable injury-time comeback from United last season.

Jones was soon out issuing instructions to one player as Bruce urged his team on. Jonjo Shelvey had a shot deflected wide as Newcastle, pressing well, pushed on later in the half. The link-up play between Wilson and those around him was better, and Isaac Hayden was a big influence in midfield.

Almiron, playing in a deeper central role, impressed, and he combined with Fraser to set up Wilson after the break. Wilson’s shot, however, agonisingly bounced wide.

Saint-Maximin replaced Fraser, and minutes later United were ahead. Wilson got above Richarlison to head a Shelvey corner home.

Wilson struck the post late in the game as Newcastle pushed for a second goal. It eventually came in added time thanks to Wilson, who coolly beat Jordan Pickford after Jamal Lewis found him unmarked.

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti admitted that his team had been second-best.

"We were lazy, we were slow," Ancelotti said. "We were not focused.

"We conceded corners to them. We didn't win duels, second balls. The game’s also about winning duels and second balls, avoiding corners and throw-ins. We were not on the pitch today."