‘The tickly bit’ hasn’t arrived yet – Steve Bruce braced for relegation dogfight

Damian Spellman, PA
·3-min read

Steve Bruce has warned his Newcastle players to buckle themselves in for a rollercoaster ride as they attempt to drag themselves away from Premier League relegation trouble.

The Magpies looked to be heading for another damaging home defeat before skipper Jamaal Lascelles struck at the death to deny Aston Villa victory on Tyneside on Friday night, in the process edging them two points clear of the bottom three.

Fulham host leaders Manchester City on Saturday, with Newcastle’s next opponents Brighton heading for Southampton the following day, but head coach Bruce is taking nothing for granted.

Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles (left) celebrates scoring the equaliser
Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles (left) celebrates scoring the equaliser (Stu Forster/PA).

He said: “There’s still a long way to go yet. The tickly bit hasn’t come upon us just yet, so we’ve got all that to look forward to.

“We’ve got a big, huge game, as we know, next week, but 10, 11 games to go, it’s still all to play for.”

Lascelles struck in the fourth minute of stoppage time with a bullet header from substitute Jacob Murphy’s cross to rescue a point just when it looked as though Newcastle’s luck had deserted them once again.

With star men Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron all missing through injury – Villa were without talisman Jack Grealish because of illness – they saw a chance to take the lead elude them when Murphy’s 83rd-minute shot came back off the crossbar.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

To make matters worse, they fell behind three minutes later when Ollie Watkins’ header hit defender Ciaran Clark and looped into the net off the underside of the bar, leaving them staring at an 11th defeat in 17 league games.

Bruce said: “To get off the the floor the way they have after the hideous goal they have conceded, the way they’ve gone about their work tonight…

“I thought we were marginally the better side and had the better opportunities and it would have been cruel if we hadn’t have got something from the match.”

Villa counterpart Dean Smith was understandably disappointed that his side had not managed to make the most of their good fortune by hanging on for the win.

Aston Villa’s Bertrand Traore hurt himself after going over the top of the advertising hoardings
Aston Villa’s Bertrand Traore hurt himself after going over the top of the advertising hoardings (Stu Forster/PA).

Asked if it was a point gained or two dropped, Smith said: “It’s two dropped from scoring in the 89th minute or whatever it was.

“We were fortunate to score the goal, but you certainly take those and then we should go and see the game out.

“We got a great opportunity to get a three or four v one and go and finish the game off to make it 2-0 and we messed that up, and then we messed a few clearances up and they end up scoring with 10 seconds to go, so we’re disappointed.”

Smith faces an anxious wait too over midfielder Bertrand Traore, who appeared to damage his ribs in a first-half collision with the advertising hoardings at St James’ Park.

He said: “He went over the billboards and whacked himself and it was too painful to continue. He’s been a bit of a trouper this season, but we’ll have to wait and see how he is now.”