Steve Bruce has urged his Newcastle understudies to develop a killer instinct to fire the club away from the Premier League’s basement.
The Magpies’ head coach endured a torrent of mixed emotions on Friday evening as a previously drab clash with Aston Villa exploded into life as it approached its conclusion.
Skipper Jamaal Lascelles ultimately snatched a 1-1 draw for Bruce’s men in the fourth minute of added time after Ciaran Clark had unwittingly turned Ollie Watkins’ header into his own net, but only after substitute Jacob Murphy had been denied by the crossbar as a gilt-edged chance came and went.
Bruce said: “Of course you want them to score, but you know in this division you don’t get chance after chance after chance.
“I’ve always said, you’re only ever as good as your strikers and unfortunately at the minute, we’ve got two or three who are missing for us.
“We have got people who are absolutely trying their utmost. I can’t ask for any more effort and endeavour.”
Newcastle went into the game without key attacking trio Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, who are not expected to return until after the international break at the end of this month, by which time the club’s plight could well have deepened if they cannot find a fresh supply of goals.
Bruce said: “We have to find a way. We’ve got a little bit of light in that area because certainly when we’ve got that bit of quality missing, then it’s obviously going to be a bit difficult.”
As it stands with 10 games remaining, the Magpies are just two points clear of the drop zone after three successive draws, although they have won only two of their last 17 league games.
By contrast Villa, who were once again without star man Jack Grealish, are just five points adrift of the top six on 41 points, although head coach Dean Smith was disappointed with their showing and last-gasp concession on Tyneside.
He said: “They [Newcastle] probably created the better chances in the game, but it was just a very scrappy game, a little bit flat and lacked rhythm, if I’m honest.
“I’ve been talking about the whole league lacking a little bit of rhythm lately and being a little bit flat, and that’s how I felt the game went.”