Steve Bruce keeps believing Newcastle can end their struggle for points

Damian Spellman, PA
·3-min read

Steve Bruce saw enough in Newcastle’s fightback against Leeds to believe they will get themselves out of Premier League trouble.

The Magpies went down 2-1 to Marcelo Bielsa’s side at St James’ on Wednesday night as they slipped to a fifth successive league defeat to extend their winless run in all competitions to 11 games.

They did so having got themselves back into the game courtesy of a rousing second-half display in which substitute Allan Saint-Maximin played his part after a two-month Covid-19 lay-off, only to be caught once again by a sucker punch.

Newcastle United v Leeds United – Premier League – St James’ Park
Allan Saint-Maximin was back for Newcastle (Stu Forster/PA)

Asked afterwards if he had seen enough to encourage him, head coach Bruce, who has found himself firmly in the firing line of disgruntled fans in recent weeks, said: “A little bit.

“I saw a little bit at Aston Villa and I certainly saw enough today and if we keep well and we stay healthy in certain areas, then we’ll be fine.

“We’ve had an awful time, there’s no disputing that, but I’ve seen enough to see that we can build, hopefully, a bit of confidence from it.

“It’s been tough. I don’t think I’ve played and started the XI that I think is my strongest team, for whatever reason.

“But I was pleased with the second half in particular. We were unlucky – I didn’t think we deserved to lose the game.

“We were a threat, had some glorious chances and I feel for them today because when you’re up against it, you need something to fall.

“But the performance was much, much better and will give us something to fall back on.”

Raphinha fired the visitors into a deserved 17th-minute lead when, after Jacob Murphy had been caught in possession in the Leeds half, he finished expertly from Rodrigo’s inch-perfect pullback.

But Newcastle, who had been pedestrian before the break, responded in determined fashion after it and looked to be in the ascendancy when Miguel Almiron had ended their 425-minute goal drought with a 57th-minute equaliser.

However, Jack Harrison’s fine strike four minutes later won it despite a rousing conclusion during which tempers flared amid allegations that Rodrigo had spat at defender Fabian Schar, an incident neither manager saw.

Bielsa was delighted with a victory which ended a run of three successive defeats.

Newcastle United v Leeds United – Premier League – St James’ Park
Marcelo Bielsa was pleased to see his team end their poor run (Lindsey Parnaby/PA)

He said: “It was very important for us to win. The majority of teams go on runs similar to the one we have had and some longer and more difficult.

“The quicker you get out of one of these runs, the better.”

Leeds once again looked vulnerable from set-pieces with Magpies skipper Jamaal Lascelles going close three times from corners, and that remains a concern for Bielsa.

He said: “There wasn’t an improvement on this. Because they didn’t score doesn’t mean that we are defending them better.

“In the 20 minutes that the opponent dominated, they had three opportunities from corner kicks. I understand that there is an evolution in this subject, I understand that there will be a solution to this problem when we don’t concede chances in this manner.”