Sport Newcastle owner's reaction, Bruno Guimaraes' special moments and big cash bonus close - 5 things

04:05  09 april  2022
04:05  09 april  2022 Source:   chroniclelive.co.uk

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Newcastle United have taken a giant step towards safety following a hard-fought 1-0 win against Wolves at St James' Park as the Magpies moved 10 points clear of the relegation zone.

Chris Wood, who had a goal disallowed in the first half, settled the game with a 72nd-minute penalty after the striker was fouled by Jose Sa.

Here are five things we learned from the game.

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Chris Wood's precious contribution

The fact Callum Wilson remains Newcastle's top scorer with a measly six goals, despite being out since December, tells its own story. But when the Magpies needed Chris Wood most, the striker stepped up.

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It was Wood who won what proved to be a decisive penalty in the 72nd minute after the New Zealand international was felled by goalkeeper Jose Sa. Wood immediately grabbed the ball and, following a lengthy VAR check, the 30-year-old put his spot-kick straight down the middle to score his first ever goal for the club at St James' Park.

Eyebrows were raised when Newcastle spent £25m on Wood last January, but this was goal, and his previous header at Southampton, could yet prove priceless contributions in securing Newcastle's Premier League status.. They will also potentially help Newcastle earn a huge cash bonus from staying in the top-flight.

Newcastle have struggled to score goals from open play of late, but at the same time, the black-and-whites have rarely been so clinical from set play situations. In fact, eight of Newcastle's last 12 goals have come from dead balls, whether it is penalties, corners or free-kicks.

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Chris Wood scores from the spot against Wolves © Newcastle Chronicle Chris Wood scores from the spot against Wolves

Newcastle do what they failed to do at Spurs

Newcastle players have, perhaps, seen a different side to Eddie Howe since the 5-1 defeat at the hands of Spurs last Sunday. Howe spoke frankly in the dressing room afterwards and the Newcastle boss admitted that he had 'changed the way he dealt with the players and certain situations' after that second-half capitulation.

There has been a renewed focus at training this week with each member of the squad desperate to play and put it right against Wolves. Emil Krafth, who did not even play at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, admitted 'everyone was p-----'.

One saving grace for Howe was that his players did not necessarily throw in the towel, as was case in a previous era, but they were just simply too cavalier and naive in their bid to get back into Sunday's game. So, rather than making sweeping changes, or switching systems, Howe gave the majority of these players the chance to make amends after the Newcastle boss reminded them that they were fighting for their futures.

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The visit of eighth-placed Wolves was another acid test of whether some of these players could play a part in this new era given that Newcastle had yet to defeat a side currently in the top half this season. It was not going to be easy; only Liverpool had earned more points in the Premier League this calendar year than Wolves and only five teams have won more games this season.

This was not a vintage performance by any means but, perhaps, it is not an exaggeration to say that Newcastle would not have won this niggly, stop-start game not so long ago.. Not only did Newcastle manage to get in front but, crucially, this time, the Magpies managed to see it out thanks in no small part to a brilliant save from Martin Dubravka to keep out Fabio Silva late on.

Mehrdad Ghodoussi said it best when he simply tweeted 'bad day' after the Spurs' mauling; in contrast, on Friday night, fellow part-owner Jamie Reuben tweeted: 'BIG result - well done to the team and thank you for that special atmosphere'.

Bruno Guimaraes has a night to remember

Newcastle had to make a late call on Joe Willock, who had been managing a slight knee issue for a couple of weeks. However, Bruno Guimaraes always appeared destined to be recalled to the starting line-up - even if Willock was not fit enough to make the squad.

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Bruno was only benched at Spurs at the weekend after returning to training two days previously following his exploits with Brazil on the other side of the world so it would have been asking a lot of the playmaker to play in such a demanding game after a long flight. Having since had a productive few days of training, Bruno felt he was ready to have a 'big game' and make his first ever start at St James' - 68 days after completing his big-money move from Lyon.

While Howe has been keen to ease Bruno in, the Brazil international's influence has grown with every cameo and appearance. It can take signings from abroad six months, a year or even longer to settle in and although Bruno is still getting to grips with life in the Premier League, there is an edge and steeliness to the 24-year-old. Indeed, as comfortable as Bruno is on the ball in helping Newcastle retain possession as this side's conductor, the midfielder also works tirelessly off it to regain possession for his side.

In a game where Wolves appeared content to let Newcastle have the ball, as the visitors sat off, Bruno came to the fore as the hosts attempted to break Lage's side down. Indeed, it was Bruno who helped create what Newcastle thought was the opening goal in the 23rd minute. Krafth seized on Max Kilman's pass and fed Bruno who played a clever one-two with Almiron before teeing up Chris Wood, who managed to hook the ball into the net despite being knocked over in the build-up. The only problem was that a VAR check found Bruno was offside in the build-up.

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Bruno Guimaraes celebrates against Wolves © Getty Images Bruno Guimaraes celebrates against Wolves

In a game lacking quality, Bruno stood out and the playmaker created a huge opportunity for Saint-Maximin after the hour mark before coming close to doubling Newcastle's advantage, himself, in the 75th minute. Bruno's numbers told their own story. The Brazilian completed 37 passes, won 12 duels, won possession back seven times and completed four tackles. Was it any wonder that he was given a standing ovation when he was replaced by Sean Longstaff late on? It was a special moment, as was the midfielder lifting up a ball boy as Newcastle celebrated Wood's goal.

Atmosphere contrast to reverse fixture as St James' remains fortress

It was hard to see a way forward for Newcastle following the reverse fixture in October. Supporters had embarked on a 408-mile round trip but there was an understandably flat atmosphere in the away end come full-time following a 2-1 defeat that did not come as a surprise to them.

Newcastle have had worse defeats this season, but apathy was in the air. Newcastle were languishing in 19th place had yet to win a game at that point despite a relatively kind fixture list. In fact, the Magpies had triumphed on just seven occasions in their previous 37 fixtures under Steve Bruce, which was a run of form only an owner like Mike Ashley would have tolerated.

No one knew it at the time, but that trip to Molineux proved the final game of the Ashley era and you only had to witness the scenes at St James' on Friday night to see how much has changed in the intervening period. Howe wanted the feeling in the ground that this was a 'massive game' and for the atmosphere to be 'intense', and the Newcastle head coach got his wish.

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Wor Flags, who only returned to the stadium after Ashley sold the club, created another stunning display before a ball was even kicked as all four corners of the stadium were covered with flags. That set the tone for what was to come in the first Friday night game of this new era which, unsurprisingly, was a sell-out as Newcastle finally returned home following four successive fixtures on the road.

Howe wanted the feeling in the ground to reflect how this was a 'massive game' and for the atmosphere to be 'intense', and the Newcastle head coach got his wish. Indeed, Newcastle fans played their part in carrying their side over the line as the Magpies won four straight games at St James - as many as they had managed across their previous 24.

Allan Saint-Maximin lifted by crowd

Eddie Howe admitted that he needed the 'incredible talent' that is Allan Saint-Maximin at his 'very best levels' on the eve of this game because the Frenchman could potentially be the difference between Newcastle staying in the league and going down. Saint-Maximin may have already played his part in that regard - the forward has been directly involved in a quarter of Newcastle's goals this season - but this was a chance for him to offer a timely reminder to his critics at his favoured arena.

Saint-Maximin, after all, has come under fire in recent weeks for his work off the ball. No player should be immune from criticism, of course, but it is easy to forget that the Magpies' talisman has started just once game in nearly two months after being sidelined by both injury and illness.

Saint-Maximin certainly took note of that criticism on social media, though, and insisted he knew 'what to do to restore their memory'. This was another testing night at times - Saint-Maximin cut a frustrated figure after wildly shooting over the bar in the 64th minute - but the response from supporters in the Gallowgate was telling as they sang his name.

Saint-Maximin looked to have been lifted by that reaction and went on to play a part in Wood winning a penalty just a few minutes later as his backheel found Joelinton in the build-up to Sa bringing down the striker.

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