Steve Bruce feels Newcastle can be a “different animal” with Allan Saint-Maximin in the side after the Frenchman inspired a vital 2-1 come-from-behind victory at Burnley on Sunday.
Newcastle were second best and trailing to Matej Vydra’s first-half goal before Saint-Maximin came on just before the hour, but within two minutes he teed up Jacob Murphy’s equaliser and five minutes later he ran from the halfway line to score what proved to be the winner himself.
The win lifted Newcastle six points above the relegation zone, and could prove to be a huge moment in their season.
This was only Saint-Maximin’s 18th league appearance of a campaign hit by illness and injury, but the Frenchman changed the way Newcastle could play as ponderous attacks turned into incisive direct play.
Saint-Maximin – who before last week’s substitute appearance had been out since February – came on alongside top-scorer Callum Wilson, back after seven games out with a hamstring problem, and Bruce is hoping the pair can give Newcastle the attacking impetus they need.
“All week the question was, ‘were they ready’,” Bruce said. “They’ve had big injuries, muscle injuries, and it made sense to leave them (out of the starting XI) and see if they could make an impact and they’ve certainly done that.
“Probably only Allan could have done that, and when you see games like that you see what we have missed. I hope we can keep them both well because we are a different animal with them in the team.”
The result ended a seven-game winless run and eases some of the pressure as Newcastle give themselves a little breathing space above Fulham, who have played a game more.
“It’s three points towards that magic figure,” Bruce said. “As I’ve said all along, it doesn’t matter what the other teams do, you’ve got to get there yourself.
“It edges us towards where it’s going to be and it’s certainly looking a lot healthier now than it was this morning.”
While Newcastle celebrated, Burnley were left to reflect on a second straight match where they could not convert a half-time lead into a result.
Sean Dyche’s side had 24 attempts at goal and Martin Dubravka was much busier than opposite number Bailey Peacock-Farrell, drafted in due to a shoulder injury for Nick Pope, but there was no reward.
“It was a very dominant performance and it’s disappointing that you don’t get anything from the game, but that’s football,” Dyche said.
“You’ve got to turn the key moments in your favour, which we sort of nearly did but didn’t quite see it off.
“The second goal was going to be important and we didn’t get that despite creating enough.
“They were two relatively soft goals. The first one we didn’t get the blocks in a place where we’d normally deal with it, and the second one we dropped too deep and allowed the lad to show a bit of talent but though I’m disappointed with the result I’m not disappointed in the performance.”
Burnley bossed possession throughout the match and, though rocked by Newcastle quick goals, had late chances to score an equaliser as Wood and Vydra both had sights of goal.
“It sounds mad but but I don’t think those two players (Saint-Maximin and Wilson) affected the game apart from those two moments, but that’s why they’re the key moments,” Dyche added.
“It’s about creating the quality of chances. I don’t get carried away with the number, but we did enough to get a second today.”