The hard work starts now, Eddie Howe warns Newcastle

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has warned his players their task will only get harder as they attempt to build upon a first half of the season which has left them sitting third in the Premier League table.

The Magpies climbed back above Manchester United after a nail-biting 1-0 home win over Fulham on Sunday which extended their unbeaten league run in the top flight to a club record-equalling 14 courtesy of a fifth successive clean sheet.

Having also reached the Carabao Cup semi-finals, Howe’s men are riding high but are conscious they have achieved nothing yet.

Newcastle fans pay tribute to manager Eddie Howe with a pre-match banner display
Newcastle fans pay tribute to manager Eddie Howe pre-match (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The 45-year-old said: “It’s been a really good first half of the season for us. We’ve improved from the start of the season to now. I think there’s still more growth in the team to come.

“I’m very pleased with the players’ commitment and what they’ve delivered for the team and for me and the club, so I think we’re in a good place.

“But the challenge only gets harder.”

Newcastle’s latest win came courtesy of an 89th-minute header from substitute Alexander Isak, although the club’s £60million record signing’s strike might only have secured a point had former Magpie Aleksandar Mitrovic not seen a 69th-minute penalty chalked off for a double contact.

Fulham head coach Marco Silva was philosophical over the Serbia international’s misfortune, but furious that referee Robert Jones had only awarded the spot-kick after being asked to review Kieran Trippier’s challenge on Bobby Decordova-Reid having seconds earlier waved play on when Andreas Pereira went down as he tussled with Dan Burn.

Aleksandar Mitrovic takes his penalty against Newcastle
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s penalty mishap cost Fulham dear (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Silva said: “That can happen, the players are on the pitch and they can miss a penalty. It was in different circumstances that Mitro missed the penalty.

“But I have to mention the decision of the referee and the decision of the VAR. It is difficult for us to understand in 30 seconds two decisions in the box, two clear decisions in the box in that moment. It is difficult to understand how the referee didn’t see one, at least one.

“You can have a bad performance. It is more difficult for us to understand with the VAR, with a screen in front of him, how he cannot see that first penalty and the red card.

“I don’t need to see the replay, one image is enough: clear penalty, clear red card and the game will be completely different.”

Howe controversially selected Joelinton in his starting line-up three days after he was charged with drink-driving after talking to the player and his staff.

Joelinton, right, takes on Fulham's Kenny Tete
Joelinton, right, played despite a drink-driving charge (Owen Humphreys/PA)

He said: “I didn’t underestimate what Joe did, but there’s a whole host of things to consider around it and I felt this was the right call at that moment.”

However, he headed home awaiting news on fellow Brazilian Bruno Guimaraes, who limped off at half-time with an ankle injury which could yet impact the club’s January transfer mission.

Howe, who admitted with hindsight he might have replaced the hugely influential midfielder sooner, said: “We’ll have to get it scanned and checked out and see what the damage is. We hope it’s not long-term, but at this moment in time we don’t know.”