Steve Bruce revelled in Newcastle’s “smash and grab” victory over Chelsea after Isaac Hayden’s last-gasp header eased them seven points clear of relegation trouble.
The Magpies had to withstand a storm at St James’ Park before Hayden, who had started the game in midfield but ended it at right wing-back, struck four minutes into stoppage time to clinch a priceless 1-0 win in the Premier League.
Bruce said: “Smash and grab – is that the right headline? The one thing that we’ve proven, especially here against the big teams, is that we’re difficult to beat and difficult to play against.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 18, 2020
“Yes, it’s not great to watch, but when I see them with the effort and the endeavour and the way they stuck to the gameplan…To be fair, we’ve got to look after the ball better, we turned over the ball far too often today, which was painful, but their resilience and their attitude was there for everybody to see. They stuck at it and defended with their lives.”
Striker Joelinton was denied a second goal in five days when his first-half header crashed back off the crossbar, but Chelsea pressed forward and Martin Dubravka had to save from N’Golo Kante.
There were seconds remaining when Bruce, overruling assistant Steve Agnew, sent Hayden up for a corner and although Matt Ritchie’s initial ball in was repelled, Allan Saint-Maximin picked him out at the far post and he headed past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Bruce, whose joy was tempered by a suspected cruciate ligament injury to loan signing Jetro Willems, said: “To draw against Manchester City, beat Tottenham, beat Manchester United, we took the lead at Liverpool, we’re proving that we can hold our own against them.
“To be fair, we’re not great to watch, but that’s the next step and at the moment we’re suited to playing that way.”
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard was pragmatic in defeat as he was left to rue missed opportunities.
Asked how his side had come away with nothing, he replied: “Because we didn’t score. If you control the whole game…
“It’s been the story of parts of our season. There have been so many great stories in our season, and then the story of parts of our season when we control and we create and we don’t score and if we don’t score enough goals…”
Tammy Abraham did not enjoy one of his better days in front of goal, but Lampard was dismissive when asked if he sympathised with the striker.
He said: “No. Why would I sympathise with him? He’s living the dream. He’s playing for Chelsea. He’s number nine. I don’t sympathise with him at all, I want him just to push on.
“He’s got a great character, a great desire about him and I’m delighted with Tammy. I can’t complain one little bit.”