Bruce praises Covid-19 returnee Saint-Maximin's impact after time out

Steve Bruce hopes Covid returnee Allan Saint-Maximin can dig Newcastle out of a relegation hole after angry fans protested outside St James’ Park as their dismal run of form continued with defeat against Aston Villa

  • Newcastle are now winless in ten matches after losing at Aston Villa on Saturday
  • Steve Bruce will hope Allan Saint-Maximin can provide the spark the team needs
  • Newcastle fans protested Mike Ashley’s ownership outside St. James’ Park 
  • The fans also unfurled anti-Bruce banners while the team was in Birmingham 

Steve Bruce is pinning his hopes on Covid returnee Allan Saint-Maximin getting Newcastle out of a relegation hole as fans protested outside St. James’ Park after another defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday night.

Saint-Maximin, who has suffered the after-effects of the virus more than any other Premier League player, tasted his first action since November as a late substitute in Newcastle’s 2-0 defeat extended their miserable scoring run to one goal in eight league games.

‘We looked more of a threat with Allan and Ryan (Fraser) on the pitch. That is the encouraging thing for me,’ said Bruce, whose side haven’t won in 10 games in all competitions.

Allan Saint-Maximin returned to action after two months out due to the effects of Covid-19

Steve Bruce will hope the Frenchman can get back to his best as Newcastle look to stop the rot

‘They will certainly make us better in that department and the most difficult part of the Premier League is creating and scoring goals. In the final third.

‘We have been in a difficult run, there is no disputing that, but we are not alone in that.

‘It is how we handle it and getting that little bit of confidence that comes with a win. We have been stuck on 19 points for a while.

‘When you are in the bottom half you are always looking over your shoulder. In that respect it hasn’t changed.’

Newcastle supporters’ group Wor Flags unfurled anti-Bruce and anti-Mike Ashley banners outside the club’s stadium while the team was playing in Birmingham.

They fear their club will go down unless Bruce is sacked but with Toon seven points above the drop zone, albeit having played a game more, the current manager is confident they will survive.

Ryan Fraser also played well after coming on having had a stop-start time on Tyneside so far

‘I know this group of players is capable. We have done it before,’ he said

‘It is the first time I have seen Ryan and Allan in tandem. If we stay fit and healthy, I am convinced we will be OK.’

He also confirmed American defender Andre DeYedlin missed the game because of a visa issue.

Aston Villa are five points off a Champions League spot with Ollie Watkins scoring for the first time in 10 games.

Ollie Watkins ended a nine-game scoring drought with an opportunistic header on 13 minutes

‘I am really pleased for him,’ said manager Dean Smith. ‘It always weighs on forwards’ minds even if they say otherwise and it was nice to get an early goal for himself.’

Skipper Jack Grealish was subbed shortly before the end having set up Bertrand Traore for the second goal.

‘Jack was disappointed to come off but he’s on four bookings and was getting a few kicks so it was the right time,’ added Smith.

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