Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce has admitted Callum Wilson could represent the difference between a decent season and a difficult one.
The 28-year-old striker, a £20million summer signing from relegated Bournemouth, has already paid of a sizeable proportion of his transfer fee with eight Premier League goals to date for his new club, the last of them a match-saving penalty in Saturday night’s 1-1 draw with Fulham.
That tally matches his full return for the Cherries last season and has contributed to 14 of the 18 points the Magpies have collected from their 13 fixtures to date.
Asked if Wilson could make the difference, Bruce replied: “He has made the difference since he walked through the door.
“He’s got that instinct – he gets the penalty too. He should have had a penalty the other night as well. He gets in there and he leads the line so well. He’s had a wonderful start.
“We have to improve the service to him, we have to get better at it, but for Callum himself – even though the goalkeeper tried his best to mess up the penalty spot, I don’t know if you noticed that – he was always going to stick it in the net.”
Wilson’s latest contribution was shrouded in controversy, however, with Fulham boss Scott Parker bemoaning the interpretation of an incident which also resulted in defender Joachim Andersen receiving a red card.
The visitors were leading through Matt Ritchie’s 42nd-minute own goal when Miguel Almiron slid an inviting pass into Wilson’s path.
Andersen tugged the striker’s shirt outside the area and then saw him go to ground inside the box.
Referee Graham Scott swiftly awarded the penalty and having been asked to review his decision on the pitchside monitor, stuck with it and dismissed Andersen into the bargain, much to Parker’s fury.
The Fulham boss said: “I’ve gone and looked over the penalty incident and I’m not saying this with emotion or being biased, I just don’t understand how he’s given a penalty, if I’m being brutally honest with you.
“I don’t know if he’s seen a different angle to what I’ve just seen in the changing room, but the initial contact takes place outside the box and he then falls over.”
Wilson comfortably beat keeper Alphonse Areola from 12 yards to leave Parker’s men having to scrap their way to a third successive draw as they continued their recent improvement.
The manager said: “In terms of where we are and what we’ve done over the last six, seven games, I think we’ve been very good and we’ve shown a real way about us.
“We’ve come out of difficult fixtures with one defeat in five, three unbeaten and I’ve been very pleased with that.”
By contrast, Bruce was relieved to have emerged with a point from a disjointed performance after losing defender Federico Fernandez to illness at the break, and will now take stock ahead of Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup quarter-final trip to Brentford.
He said: “We didn’t play well enough – I’m expecting what comes with it – but there’s no denying that we’ve got to be better than what we showed today.”