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Saturday, November 12, 2022

Joe Willock denies West Ham and boosts Newcastle’s survival hopes | Premier League

Newcastle’s steady climb towards safety was enhanced after Joe Willock’s equaliser earned a draw at West Ham to extend their unbeaten run in the league to six games.

The hosts were fortunate to take the lead through Craig Dawson’s header but an instinctive finish from Willock was another step in the right direction for Newcastle under Eddie Howe.

Failure to beat Watford in January seemed to be a major blow to Newcastle’s hopes of avoiding relegation, but 10 points from the last four matches have eased their supporters’ fears and lifted them out of the bottom three.

West Ham’s inability to hold on to their lead prevented them from climbing back into fourth and underlined the nagging feeling that the club’s lack of squad depth will prove costly in their quest for Champions League football. Kurt Zouma returned to the starting lineup after sickness ruled him out of the draw at Leicester, with the defender the subject of derision from the Newcastle fans for his inexplicable social media video of him abusing his pet cats.

Newcastle’s hopes of a fourth successive league win were hampered by the loss of Kieran Trippier after the defender fractured his foot against Aston Villa, as well as the flair and pace of Allan Saint-Maximin, who is sidelined with a calf injury.

Craig Dawson opens the scoring for West Ham against Newcastle.
Craig Dawson opens the scoring for West Ham against Newcastle. Photograph: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Getty Images

The visitors were also forced to travel down by road rather than plane on Friday due to the impact of Storm Eunice, but there was no sign of any fatigue from their players. Howe’s team made an explosive start which almost resulted in a third-minute opener but the goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski blocked Joelinton’s shot from an acute angle.

Willock went close with a shot deflected over the crossbar with West Ham floundering sheepishly during the early exchanges.

But West Ham, looking much more sluggish than the team forced to take a 280-mile coach trip to London, finally started to come to life. Jarrod Bowen, playing with great confidence after scoring five goals in his previous five league matches, was only denied by Martin Dubravka’s exceptional save which pushed his shot on to the bar.

Willock was increasingly looking a threat with his thrusting attacking runs but Newcastle needed more of a knockout punch in the final third, with the striker Chris Wood still searching for a first goal since his January move. Although David Moyes’s team had struggled to move out of first gear during the opening half hour Craig Dawson profited from Aaron Cresswell’s free-kick to head them into the lead with his second goal in as many games.

But Newcastle, unbeaten in the league since the middle of December, deservedly equalisedat the end of the first half after a poor defensive header from Declan Rice was seized upon by Willock, with his impeccably timed flick crossing the line via the post.

The second half was increasingly scrappy and an agitated Saïd Benrahma appeared to let out his frustration at Moyes after being replaced in the final 20 minutes.

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West Ham failed to find any fluency throughout the remainder of the contest. It was another unconvincing performance, much to the disgruntlement of the impatient home fans, and one which suggested their top-four challenge is likely to fall short.

But Newcastle coped admirably without two of their most influential players and their defensive improvement, inspired by the recent recruits Dan Burn and Matt Targett, has paid off handsomely. Their Premier League security looks safer by the week.

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