Joe Willock scored for the sixth successive game as Newcastle United welcomed 10,000 fans back to St James’ Park by beating relegated Sheffield United.
The 21-year-old on-loan Arsenal midfielder headed home Jacob Murphy’s cross in front of the Gallowgate End to become the youngest-ever player to net in six straight Premier League games.
Willock’s strike ensured a relatively serene reunion with supporters for Magpies boss Steve Bruce – who has come under criticism from a section of fans – although there were a few smatterings of disquiet.
That could have been different had David McGoldrick taken an early chance to put the visitors in front but he steered Enda Stevens’ lay-off wide from just inside the box.
After that let-off, however, Allan Saint-Maximin teased and tormented the Blades backline, playing a key part in the goal, before being substituted with what appeared to be a calf injury in the second half.
Indeed, injuries were the only real downside for the hosts, already without top scorer Callum Wilson, as Willock also limped off to cast doubt over whether he will have the chance to extend his scoring run.
Bruce will point to injury and unavailability as one of the reasons for the Magpies’ mediocre season, having been deprived of Wilson and long Covid sufferers Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles for long spells.
With Joelinton also withdrawn in the first half and goalkeeper Martin Dubravka – clearly in pain – forced to finish the game as Newcastle had made all their permitted substitutions, Bruce would be forgiven for being happy to see the season end on Sunday.
On the other hand, his side are in arguably their best form of the campaign after a fourth win in eight games – a run that has included victories over West Ham and Leicester, draws with Liverpool and Tottenham, and a display that gave champions Manchester City a run for their money.
If their walking wounded can round the campaign off with a win at Fulham, Bruce’s side, who began Wednesday 17th in the table, could astonishingly match or better their 13th-placed finish last term.
One of their first orders of business this summer will surely be to see if they can tempt Willock to return, either on a lengthier loan or permanently, after proving a revelation since his January transfer deadline day switch.
He showed he is as adept with his head as with his feet by rising above Jayden Bogle to power home the winner, a goal met with acclaim by Newcastle fans attending a home game for the first time in almost 15 months.
McGoldrick and keeper Aaron Ramsdale have been two of the shining lights in a forgettable season for Sheffield United and both did their best to help the Blades come away with something.
While McGoldrick did waste the visitors’ best chance seven minutes in, his effort was only just wide and he was incredibly unlucky with a dipping 25-yard shot in the second half that clipped the bar.
Ramsdale, meanwhile, came through a testing opening few weeks with the club to produce a string of superb displays and the £18.5m signing made a stunning one-handed save to keep out Jonjo Shelvey’s close-range header.
He produced a save just as good to deny Willock, although the offside flag would have ruled that one out, before reading Saint-Maximin’s intentions to deny Dwight Gayle a sure-fire tap-in after the break.
Ultimately, though, neither player could prevent a 16th defeat in 19 away games for the Blades, who will bid to avoid two unwanted Premier League records when fans return to Bramall Lane for their final game at home to Burnley.
This loss equalled the mark of 29 Premier League defeats in a season, held by Ipswich, Sunderland and Derby. And they remain on 19 goals, one short of Derby’s record-low of 20 in 2007-08.
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