Football: Newcastle’s late win a big moment in top-four race, says Howe

Newcastle United's Alexander Isak celebrates scoring the second goal in the 2-1 Premier League win over Nottingham Forest. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON – Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe believes that his side’s late 2-1 English Premier League victory at Nottingham Forest on Friday could be a pivotal moment in their pursuit of a top-four spot this season.

Alexander Isak was the star of the day as the Swedish striker scored twice, including a stoppage-time penalty, to clinch all three points.

The Magpies remain in fifth spot going into the international break, but they could move into the Champions League spots should they beat Manchester United in their next game.

“A big moment in our season and we managed to dig deep and find a winner,” said Howe.

“We don’t know (how important it could be) at this moment in time, but it felt a big moment at the end.

“We went through a run of games around the League Cup final that were tough games, playing top opposition.

“Unfortunately we got beaten three times and it was a real test of our character how we responded to that. Full credit to the players, it was a huge win.”

Newcastle ended a near two-month wait for a Premier League win last weekend in beating Wolverhampton Wanderers and came flying out of the blocks at the City Ground. But the closest the visitors came to turning their early dominance into a lead was when Renan Lodi turned Isak’s cross onto his own crossbar.

Instead, it was Forest who went in front completely against the run of play, thanks to a howler from Sven Botman. The Dutch centre-back’s attempted pass back to goalkeeper Nick Pope was intercepted by Emmanuel Dennis.

Dennis then produced a stunning chipped finish for just his second Forest goal.

Newcastle finally got their reward in first-half stoppage time, when Isak flicked in Joe Willock’s cross off the post.

The pattern of play continued after the break, as the Magpies laid siege to the Forest goal.

Just when the home side looked set to hold out for a precious point in their battle to beat the drop, Moussa Niakhate needlessly put his hand up to block Isak’s tame header.

The Swedish international’s debut season in England has been blighted by injury, but he showed his class by keeping his head to slot past Keylor Navas and spark wild scenes of celebration among the away support.

“We believe and we know we have it in our own hands and have a good chance,” said Isak of Newcastle’s top-four hopes.

“It is important we have gone into this break with a good feeling with two wins from two games.”

Forest’s first home defeat in the league since September left Steve Cooper’s men still in a dangerous position, as they fight against relegation.

“It’s always the worst way to lose, in the last couple of minutes, having fought in the game,” he said.

“We made some poor football decisions around the build-up to the goals and that’s something we can only blame ourselves for.”

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