Soccer

Home success gives Newcastle boss Eddie Howe reasons to be cheerful

The Magpies had not won at St James’ Park since they beat Fulham on December 16.

Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe (left) secured his 100th win as a Premier League manager against Wolves
Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe (left) secured his 100th win as a Premier League manager against Wolves Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe (left) secured his 100th win as a Premier League manager against Wolves (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Eddie Howe is hoping there is more to come from Newcastle after seeing them secure a first home win of 2024 and the 100th of his Premier League career.

The Magpies had not tasted victory at St James’ Park since they beat Fulham 3-0 on December 16, but they ended that run by beating injury-hit Wolves by the same scoreline to suggest they could finally be emerging from a difficult run.

Coming four days after they edged past Sky Best Championship Blackburn into the FA Cup quarter-finals, the win left head coach Howe in positive mood.

He said: “Sometimes you just have to find a way to get over the finishing line and you know then that there are better performances ahead. I think we were in that moment today.

“I don’t think today was ever going to be a classic Newcastle performance, but I think it’s a building bridge closer to where we want to be.

“I thought Blackburn was very similar. We got through, that was the main thing. Today was slightly better again and I’d like to think now with the strength of the group returned that we will hopefully see continued improvement in performances.”

Newcastle were happy to sit back and try to hit the visitors on the break during the first half, and the ploy paid handsome dividends when Alexander Isak headed home after Bruno Guimaraes’ shot had been half blocked and then Anthony Gordon slotted into an empty net after goalkeeper Jose Sa had collided with team-mate Max Kilman.

Asked if the ploy had worked as he had hoped, Howe, who lost Kieran Trippier to a calf problem, added: “It was a slight tweak from our normal way of playing. We analyse our opposition, like we do always.

“There are always tweaks and little things we try to do to help us in our performance, and that was one today, to try to maybe play a slightly more transitional game.”

Wolves, who were without injured duo Hwang Hee-chan – he is expected to be sidelined for around six weeks by a hamstring injury – and Matheus Cunha and lost both Sa and Pedro Neto at half-time, gave as good as they got for long periods, but found Magpies keeper Martin Dubravka in resilient form again.

Their day was done when substitute Tino Livramento capped a good afternoon for the hosts in stoppage time with a fine solo run and finish to wrap up the win.

Head coach Gary O’Neill, however, was not convinced about the merits of Howe’s game plan.

He said: “There’s no way that Newcastle let us have a lot of the ball. We had a lot of the ball because we were really good with the ball.

“I know Eddie Howe, I know Newcastle. They press everybody, especially at home. The reason we had the ball was our quality and how good we were with it.”

O’Neil added: “I thought structurally we were the better side, had real control of the game, control of the ball, so I’m really proud of the group for what they gave today.”