Match-winner Isaac Hayden has admitted he could not have chosen a better time to score his first goal of the season after striking at the death to see off Chelsea.
The versatile 24-year-old, who started Saturday evening’s game in central midfield and ended it at right wing-back, found himself in the right place at the right time to head Allan Saint-Maximin’s cross past Kepa Arrizabalaga in the fourth minute of stoppage time to clinch a 1-0 win.
For Hayden, whose last strike came at Wolves in February last year, it was well worth the wait, even if the ball did end up in the back of the net in slightly unorthodox fashion.
He told NUFC TV: “Allan, it was a fantastic ball from him – it was almost on a plate, really, it was harder to miss.
“There were a few people in front of me who could have scored as well, but it just drifted over them and the side of my face, shoulder, chest, I don’t know what it hit, but it went in, which is the most important thing.
“I couldn’t have picked a better time. I’m just happy with the three points.”
If it was Hayden’s intervention which secured three precious Premier League points – the win moved the Magpies up into 12th place and seven points clear of the bottom three – the foundation for victory was laid by a committed team display in the face of a Chelsea onslaught.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 19, 2020
The visitors, who were fortunate to escape when Joelinton rattled the crossbar with a 21st-minute header, dominated much of what followed, but were thwarted repeatedly by Newcastle’s stubborn refusal to succumb.
After a run of successive defeats by Manchester United, Everton and Leicester over the festive period, a return of four points from a possible six at Wolves and at home to Frank Lampard’s men has sent spirits soaring despite the suspected cruciate ligament injury to loan signing Jetro Willems suffered against the Blues.
Hayden said: “It’s the only way, really. We’ve been disappointed. Obviously the festive period wasn’t very good from us, we have had a lot of injuries which have caused a lot of disruption for the team.
“But we’ve had to counteract that and had to work hard and the lads who have been available have had to do their jobs.”
Lampard left Tyneside once again bemoaning his side’s lack of cutting edge, but more than happy with much of what he had seen ahead of Tuesday evening’s derby clash with Arsenal.
Asked what his message to the players would be, he told Chelsea TV: “Heads up, heads up, Arsenal in a few days time.
“They can’t give any more – there’s no point in me putting on a video of that and showing them getting in and around the box and not being able to get that little finish because everyone wants to do the same thing.
“We practise it, we work on it, we want to score goals and we’re getting in there, so they have to get their heads up and I have to make sure they get their heads up.”