A stunning display from Allan Saint-Maximin and a few more goals from Callum Wilson propelled Newcastle to a well deserved 3-1 win over Burnley tonight.
In a performance almost incomparable to the ones against Newport, Tottenham and Brighton – we showed real attacking quality, scoring two superb goals before Wilson converted from the spot late on to make it four goals in four league starts for our new £20m man.
The win takes us to 6th in the league and arrives as a welcome boost for Steve Bruce – and hats off to him for getting us further up the pitch in a display that was much more positive and easy on the eye from a NUFC perspective!
There were four changes in the line-up from last week’s draw at Spurs; including a first start of the season for Fabian Schar – who replaced skipper Jamal Lascelles as a result of his hamstring injury. Elsewhere, Emil Krafth came in for Javier Manquillo, Lewis returned in place of Ritchie and a fit Allan Saint-Maximin took the place of Miguel Almiron in the starting 11. I’d imagine the Paraguayan will feel hard done by to miss out, considering the fine form he’s been in so far this season!
Steve Bruce’s side have been under intense pressure recently to play attacking football and we tried to control the action from the off tonight – with Burnley being content with allowing us to dominate possession off the ball and doing little but pump it long or look to win free kicks or force set pieces on it.
After a few half chances fell to Callum Wilson via some wild moments of Nick Pope and electric movement from our £20m man, the first real piece of quality of the game came via our marvellous Frenchman.
Wilson won an excellent flick-on from a Darlow’s punt up the pitch and the ball fell to Allan Saint-Maximin – who immediately drove at the Burnley defence.
He had plenty to do as he approached the 18-yard box and created space for himself through two chops that completely bamboozled three Burnley defenders. He sent them one way, and then the other and having created a clear sight at the goal he possessed the composure to fizz a fantastic effort past the helpless Nick Pope! 1-0.
There was an alarming moment in the latter stages of the half where a shot from the edge of the box was deflected and eventually fell into the path of Ashley Barnes, who poked the ball into our net. Just as he reeled away in celebration, it was thankfully ruled out for offside. It was, however, a warning sign that Burnley – despite looking pretty desperate at both ends – were only ever a long ball or 18-yard box scrap away from an underserved equaliser.
We had another great chance in first-half injury time. An inventive Jonjo Shelvey cross found Jeff Hendrick in acres of space at the back post. The Irishman had time to take a touch before shooting, but that touch was poor and his effort was extremely tame, rattling the side netting after getting the ball caught under his feet. As the half-time whistle went, the only negative I can draw from that was our wasted chances of that ilk.
Nevertheless, we went in at 1-0. A solid start.
We were much better than we’d seen in recent weeks, but Burnley were woeful throughout the first period. Their passing at all distances was atrocious and they tried to make it nothing other than a scrappy and physical affair throughout. Luckily, our men didn’t stoop to their level and tried to keep the ball on the deck – even if Ashley Barnes left a few sore ones on us and Saint-Maximin got kicked from pillar to post!
From a Newcastle standpoint, the football was a lot prettier than anything we’ve had the displeasure in viewing this season. Passes were played with zip and intent, Joelinton looked far more comfortable when picking the ball up in a natural, deeper role and both Krafth and Lewis were able to push up and join attacks as a result of our pressing.
Saint-Maximin was, in moments, back to his electric, unplayable best and Callum Wilson played like a ‘proper number nine’ – showing constant movement in between the lines and giving the Burnley defence a physical presence to think about too.
The only missing piece was our tendency to waste a few key chances – but it was 1-0 at the break and a win felt likely if we kept that up.
It was frustrating to see us sit deep at the start of the second half and allow the away side to take the initiative. We played right into their hands as they created the first chance of the half, with Karl Darlow having to deny Chris Wood with strong hands from a powerful header. Moments later, Krafth then stopped the Kiwi getting in on goal with a last ditch challenge after a smart turn from the big man saw him steal a march on Fernandez.
The Swede then had to slot into the centre-half role as Fabian Schar was replaced by Javier Manquillo – Schar had just recovered from a shoulder injury, but aggravated it once again after an awkward landing in the first half. Hardly what we wanted to see – a right-back up against two of the league’s most physical forwards, but there’s little else we could’ve done with no centre-halves on the bench!
Soon after, we’d finally pay the price for all of those missed chances. A Phil Bardsley cross wasn’t cleared effectively and eventually fell to Ashley Westwood – who leathered the ball on the half volley into the bottom corner, giving Karl Darlow absolutely chance. 1-1.
So frustrating after our clear dominance in the first period, but this is what can happen when you back off, sit deep and allow a physical Burnley side to pin you in!
Despite being on the back foot at the start of the second half – with Burnley having 67% of the ball in the 2nd half after enjoying just 36% in the first – we had a brilliant response up our sleeves.
Just four minutes on from that equaliser, Emil Krafth found Saint-Maximin on the right hand side – the Frenchman burst past Charlie Taylor and then drilled the perfect ball across the box – putting it on a plate to Callum Wilson who just had to tap the ball into the net to restore our lead! He did so and that makes it three goals in four Premier League games for our new talisman – but he wasn’t done there.
A stellar assist to cap off a phenomenal performance by Saint-Maximin; which made it even more heart-wrenching to see him hobble off just after the goal. He was targeted by Burnley the entire match and received no protection from the referee.
Hopefully, his injury is just a knock and not a re-occurrence of anything serious! My heart can’t take it!
Our spirits were lifted once again just moments later, as we were awarded a penalty kick and a big chance to put this one to bed. Nick Pope made yet another mistake and then wiped out an energetic Ryan Fraser – leaving the referee with no choice but to award a penalty.
Callum Wilson stepped up and chipped the ball down middle! Cool as ice! He kissed the camera and took his tally for the season up four.
We had been punished for our poor start to the second-half, but our response to their equaliser was EXACTLY what we wanted to see. We could’ve had two more goals late on – with Fraser nearly dinking Pope from long range and Hendrick just failing to make contact from a superb Shelvey cross – but it didn’t matter in the end as we cruised to victory.
The final whistle blew and with it a massive sigh of relief from Steve Bruce! Putting the missed chances as well as the lacklustre start to the second half aside, it was an all around great performance.
It wasn’t pretty at times as Burnley constantly hit it long and kicked us to pieces, but the first two goals were excellently worked and our third meant for a relaxed end to a game we thoroughly deserved to win .
Saint-Maximin was Burnley’s nightmare and undeniably the man of the match, Wilson was lively and continued his dream start to his Newcastle career and the defence was resolute against Burnley’s physical onslaught; it was a much better showing than that of our last few games.
A honourable mention also goes out to Joelinton – who won’t steal the headlines for his performance, but it was again a great performance from the Brazilian. He worked hard, linked the play from midfield to attack, held the ball up well and overall looks much more comfortable in a deeper role. His confidence is growing and I’m very happy with his progression.
Three goals and a comfortable win – making it seven points from four game for Bruce’s boys. We’re sitting pretty in 6th place and have a cup quarter final to play, not bad at all.
A pat on the back to Steve Bruce. He’s been under pressure all week and hasn’t always responded well enough to fair criticism in press conferences, but he deserves a break after responding well to his haters in this one.
Credit to Bruce and the players after a much more enjoyable night for us Newcastle United fans!