NEWCASTLE: Callum Wilson ended a 10-game goal drought but failed to inspire Newcastle United to a Premier League win over West Ham.
The England frontman scored his first goal since October at the Gallowgate End to put United in front, only for former Magpies’ transfer target Lucas Paqueta to net a first-half leveller.
With that point, United lost ground on Champions League-chasing rivals Manchester United, who earlier in the day beat Crystal Palace. After Arsenal’s loss to Everton, United are now the team who has lost the least amount of games in the division — one.
The point does, however, mean they are also the side to have drawn the most games in England’s top flight — 10 from 21 games. With Bruno Guimaraes sitting out the match after a red card in midweek, Eddie Howe was forced to reshuffle his pack, bringing in Allan Saint-Maximin for his first Premier League start since August.
The Magpies got off to an absolute flyer early doors and had the ball in the net twice within the opening three minutes. Only one of them counted. A slick move down the right saw Kieran Trippier set Miguel Almiron free at the byline and he pulled back for Joe Willock who smashed home what looked like the opener, only for the VAR gods to look down and rule it out.
Trippier’s pass to Almiron just crept out for a goal-kick. When the game eventually restarted, United picked up where they left off and this time made it count as Wilson was found quite brilliantly by man of the moment, Sean Longstaff, and crashed home his first goal following a 10-game goal drought. Bar a Fabian Schar chance, it was then all the visitors, as a leggy-looking United, without talisman Bruno, struggled first to keep possession, then actually to do anything with it.
Said Benrahma fired a shot across the bows of Nick Pope in the Newcastle goal before Brazilian Paqueta did the same soon after. The Magpies’ net seemed to be living a charmed life, until Paqueta broke Pope’s remarkable Premier League clean sheet run.
A corner from the United right was flicked on at the front post and picked up by the West Ham man, who tucked home and cartwheeled off into the Tyneside night. It was hard to argue that the Hammers didn’t deserve it.
In fact, you could make a case to say their more organized, incisive play warranted a lead. They almost got one when Nayef Aguerd was presented with a free header, but he diverted over when well placed on the stroke of the break.
The hoped lift didn’t come after the break as David Moyes’ men continued to dominate. However, having created little despite seeing plenty of ball, the struggling Hammers seemed to drop their levels and allow United a way into it.
A defense-splitting pass from Schar found Almiron on the right, as is so often the case he laid back to Trippier and the cross eventually dropped for Saint-Maximin — but his goal-bound shot was blocked.
Having watched on expectantly from the bench for the opening 70 minutes, new boy Anthony Gordon was thrown on to liven up United in the final third.
And within seconds it was clear why Howe wanted the former Everton attacker so desperately. His touch, speed of movement and thought injected some much-needed drive into a flagging Newcastle side, who, despite limping through two thirds of the encounter, did more than enough in the last 20 to win it. Gordon was the catalyst.
His through ball set Wilson away and just as he was set to pull the trigger, an outstanding, goal-saving challenge from Aguerd kept things level. Wilson’s third opportunity came on 82 as he guided a Trippier free-kick straight into the hands of Lukas Fabianksi.
And as time ticked away, Gordon had the chance to become an instant hero but his low shot from a cleared corner was blocked by sprawling visiting bodies. Had United managed to grab a winner, it may well have done Moyes’ men a disservice.
Two points dropped or one point gained? Whichever school of thought you subscribe to, it was yet another game unbeaten for the Magpies, whose role at the top table of English football continues to be underlined with every week that passes, even if it was not the result Howe and his men would have ultimately wanted.