Newcastle returned to action following a coronavirus scare to secure a valuable three points over a struggling West Brom.
Dwight Gayle netted the winner in a game that had been in doubt only a couple of days prior, with Newcastle having been forced to postpone their previous weeks clash with Aston Villa due to a coronavirus outbreak within the squad.
An already crammed calendar means that we might have to wait a while before we see that game, but against West Brom, Newcastle supporters seemed to make up for it as Almiron crashed the ball into the back of the net after only nineteen seconds of play.
The goal followed a mistake by the hapless Bratislav Ivanovic who was eased of the ball far too easily by Callum Wilson before Joelinton threaded through a delicious through ball to tee up Almiron at the back post.
It could not have been a worse possible start for a West Brom side who had been humbled 5-1 by Crystal Palace the previous week. And it could have gotten even worse, as Matt Ritchie slid Joelinton in from a quick free kick, fortunately for them he could only strike his shot straight at Sam Johnstone.
West Brom were reeling. So it’s to their credit) that they were able to work their way back into the game. They finished the first half the stronger team and shortly into the second, they capitalised as Dan Furlong exploited some lackadaisical defending from Jamal Lewis to finish in style past Karl Darlow. It was a tough lesson for Lewis, who had allowed Furlong to get in front of him and was withdrawn barely twenty minutes later.
Newcastle had by no means been the runaway favourites going into the game, their training ground had been shut for more than a week following a COVID-19 crisis that had compelled them to play Isaac Hayden – bedridden for ten days from the virus – at centre back.
But after such a promising start, anything less than three points would have felt like a missed opportunity to put some distance between them and a relegation rival. So Steve Bruce gambled; striker Dwight Gayle was sent on for Lewis to make his first appearance of the season and Jacob Murphy later replaced right back Emil Krafth.
Just like Almiron in the first half, Murphys impact on the game was explosive as within two minutes of being introduced he sent in a sensational cross for Dwight Gayle who powered header off the crossbar. It was a stunning header, worthy of winning any match.
Newcastle would hold on for a morale boosting victory that takes them nine points clear of the relegation zone heading into Tuesday’s encounter with the mercurial Leeds United. West Brom meanwhile, are left to rue what might have been as rumours abound that manager Slaven Bilic might be nearing the exit.