Steve Bruce stood by his decision to show faith in Miguel Almiron and Joelinton after both scored in Newcastle’s win over Rochdale.
It was a comfortable evening in the end for Newcastle, who raced into a three-goal lead by half-time of their FA Cup replay.
Bruce told his post-match press conference that he was pleased to have had the opportunity to give players much-needed minutes – but acknowledged something they must not do if they want to avoid another replay in the fourth round – in which they will face Oxford.
“Some people needed 90 minutes. Jamal [Lascelles] and [Matt] Ritchie it was good for,” he said.
“In that respect they’ve all come through it. We’re in the hat, we’ve got the draw – we already know we’re there. We look forward to next round.
“We can’t ask for more than a home draw. If we treat Oxford with the same respect we showed Rochdale in the first half we’ve got a chance. Second half we were a bit too easy, oozy.”
Among the scorers was Almiron, who has shaken off an indifferent start to the season to find the net in each of his last three games for the club.
Bruce insists that the attacking midfielder always had his faith.
“I defended Almiron and was asked same question week in and week out and now he’s got 4 in 7. You could see within 5 minutes what a difference it made to Almiron.
“He’s only young, he’s got a big burden to carry. We’re all relieved.
“He’s been part of nearly every single training session. He’d like to have done better than he has done but he will only get better. We were determined to leave him on and score a goal.”
An even bigger burden was lifted when record signing Joelinton scored in the second half – with the striker finally adding to his first Newcastle strike that came back in August.
The £40m man embraced with Bruce in his celebration, and his manager says it was important for him to feel appreciated while the goals weren’t going in.
“It’s my job to get the best out of all the team. Sometimes they need a hand when they’re low on confidence.
“Sometimes it’s my job to say people will forgive you and they will because of that big heart he’s got.
“It’s a hard job to play here. There’s an expectation on you and if you’ve got a big transfer fee and you’re young, sometimes it becomes difficult.
“I never worried because I could see him in training and you can see what he’s got.
“Let’s hope it just gives him that bit of confidence. You saw the difference in him at the end.
“I was worried sick he was going to jump on me because that would have done me in. It was just shouting in Portuguese, I don’t know what the hell he was saying.”
One man who didn’t get on the scoresheet, but still played a key part, was Matt Ritchie – a personality Bruce thinks Newcastle have missed.
“We missed Ritchie. Very quietly we’ve been without some of our big players for a while.
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“He’s effervescent and loud and wants to play, he’s a great pro and a great lad to have around. He brings a real energy to the place.”
Bruce also took the opportunity to thank the Newcastle crowd, who were even cheering him on despite their initial skepticism over his appointment.
“To the supporters: well done. 30,000 here is unbelievable in this day and age. Well done to them.
“Well, well, well! It only took until after Christmas but I’ll take it!
“Results will help us on that. We’ve had a tough three or four weeks with injuries and results but hopefully we can get a few of them back and go on from there.”
Fans will be keeping an eager eye on their transfer plans, after it was confirmed that Bruce would meet owner Mike Ashley over potential signings.
Bruce was unable to reveal a specific date for that meeting, but insists he is looking to improve his squad where possible.
“Hopefully sometime (soon). It wasn’t planned just yet. He’s here for a day or two so we’ll meet up.
“It’s just the same as what I’ve said to you all along. He’s been supportive since I walked in the door.
“If there’s someone there who can improve us, we’ll act. I think there’s been three deals so far in the Premier League so it’s difficult.
“We just have to make sure we’re better. The ones we’re trying to go after are better. If we can get them, we’ll try it.
“My take on it is we have had one or two (so far) it wasn’t possible to get. We’re still trying for one or two and we’ve got a couple of plates spinning.
“If I can’t improve it, I’ve got to be patient and wait.
“You’ve seen the difference Allan Saint-Maximin and Almiron have made and we hope that (goal) kicks on Jo. That bit of quality can take us forward.”
Finally, Bruce congratulated academy product Tom Allan on making his debut.
“In the end we have four or five Geordies on the pitch. He’ll be delighted to have made his debut and made a goal.”