West Brom beat Newcastle 2 – 1. Gayle, who was injured during pre-season, came off the bench to find the net with a superb header eight minutes from time at St James’ Park on Saturday. Dwight Gayle scored the winner on his first appearance of the season as Newcastle returned from a coronavirus-enforced absence to heap more misery on struggling West Bromwich Albion.
The Magpies, playing for the first time in more than two weeks, were given the lead after just 20 seconds by Miguel Almiron. West Brom’s improvement after half-time was rewarded by Darnell Furlong’s excellent equaliser.
But Gayle’s strike against the club where he once spent time on loan lifted Newcastle to 11th in the Premier League table, at least for the time being, while West Brom remains 19th.
With his side having been beaten in five of their past six games, Baggies boss Slaven Bilic said “I don’t get those signals or that information” when asked if his position is under threat.
“It’s about the result of course, but today we showed again that we are there in the game to the end,” he added.
“We showed the character and the mentality and the quality to some degree, and the team is very much alive.” Newcastle’s training ground was closed for a week after a Covid-19 outbreak which caused their game against Aston Villa to be postponed.
The Magpies only returned to training on Tuesday, with manager Steve Bruce saying that, as of Monday, he had huge doubts over how many players he would have available for this fixture.
As it turned out, Bruce was only missing two players that started in the win at Crystal Palace last time out, though the absence of both Federico Fernandez and Javier Manquillo left a defensive shortage that usual midfielder Isaac Hayden filled with aplomb.
After their enforced lay-off, the hosts flew out of the blocks through Almiron’s rapid strike and continued to have the better of the first half, posing a constant threat on the break.
However, West Brom grew into the game at the end of the opening 45 minutes, improved further after a half-time rejig and were rewarded with Furlong’s equaliser.
Pushed back, Newcastle introduced Gayle to make his return from a knee injury suffered in a pre-season friendly against Crewe. He immediately saw a header cleared off the line by Matt Phillips, but another header, from a wonderful cross supplied by fellow substitute Jacob Murphy, left Sam Johnstone with no chance.
“I can’t give enough credit to the players and the staff who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes over the last couple of weeks, and certainly the medical department whose decision to shut us down was spot on,” said Bruce.
“We’ve got a good couple of wins and a huge month coming up and we could do with a fully fit squad, so let’s brush it down and try not to get carried away yet – but I couldn’t be more pleased.”
West Brom empty handed again
West Brom arrived in the north-east of England with only one away point all season, a single win in the Premier League and on the back of a capitulation on being reduced to 10 men in the 5-1 defeat by Crystal Palace last weekend.
If manager Bilic was under pressure and in need of a reaction from his players, the early signs were not promising.
From a West Brom kick-off, a long ball saw Branislav Ivanovic outmuscled by Callum Wilson, with Joelinton collecting the ball to square for the free Almiron, who finished from an angle.
The Baggies were disjointed and toothless, missing the guile of Matheus Pereira, who was beginning his suspension for last week’s red card.
After two goals in the past two weeks, Conor Gallagher kickstarted West Brom before Bilic’s half-time intervention breathed life into his team. The experienced Charlie Austin was introduced to provide a threat up front, while Phillips was released to play further forward.
It was Phillips’ deep cross that provided the goal, Furlong energetically nipping in ahead of the dithering Jamaal Lewis to poke a smart finish inside the post. For Furlong, it was a first Premier League goal some 24 years after father Paul last scored in the top flight.
West Brom were dominant, Newcastle pushed back – yet the visitors could not create another telling opening. And just as Bilic changed the game with his substitutions, so too did Bruce with the decisive introduction of Gayle.
“It was a game of little margins in the end,” said Bilic. “They scored incredibly early from a situation from which we had to do better, and after that their physicality and quality up front was better than ours.
“But in the second half it was more a change of bravery and mentality, and we were good – we scored the goal but we didn’t create enough clear-cut chances and again we conceded a goal that we have to stop.”
Leaky Baggies – the stats
- Newcastle have won three of their past five Premier League home games, one more than they had in their previous 11 at St James’ Park.
- West Brom have become the first team to concede 25 goals in the Premier League this season, while the Baggies have picked up just one point from their six away games so far.
- Some 57% of Newcastle’s league goals this term have come in the final 15 minutes of games (eight out of 14) – the highest ratio in the competition.
- Almiron’s opener after 20 seconds was Newcastle’s second fastest Premier League goal after Alan Shearer netted 10 seconds into a game against Manchester City in January 2003.
- Since joining West Brom before the 2016-17 season, Phillips has been involved in more league goals for the Baggies than any other player (42 – 18 goals, 24 assists).
- Newcastle’s Joelinton has been involved in three goals in his past two league matches (one goal, two assists) – just one fewer than he had in his previous 46 combined in the competition (two goals, two assists).
- Newcastle’s Jacob Murphy has now provided one assist in each of his three Premier League campaigns, setting up Gayle’s winner just 118 seconds after coming on as a substitute.
Things do not get any easier for West Brom, with their next engagement a trip to Manchester City on Tuesday (20:00 GMT). Newcastle travel to Leeds the following evening (18:00).