Newcastle United’s hopes of beating the drop have received a welcome boost – from an unlikely source.
The Magpies watched on last night as relegation rivals Fulham lost 1-0 to Wolves thanks to an injury-time Adama Traore goal.
And the good news has kept on coming for Newcastle boss Steve Bruce after it was revealed that West Ham United – who the Toon play next weekend – have been robbed of two key players, Declan Rice and Michail Antonio, for much of the run-in.
Antonio’s latest hamstring problem is a particular blow given David Moyes declined the chance to sign a back-up striker in January when they sold record signing Sebastien Haller to Ajax.
But the Hammers boss has not been afraid to experiment this season, with varying degrees of success.
Left-back Aaron Cresswell has thrived as a third centre-half, right-back Ryan Fredericks has played in midfield, Mark Noble was tried as a number 10 and wingers Jarrod Bowen and Andriy Yarmolenko have led the attack.
“We were always aware that we could run into a situation like this,” said Moyes.
“Up until now it has worked very well, we’ve been in a good position with it. We’ll try and keep it going. We will have to look to see how it works.
“There’s a lot of talk of playing with false nines nowadays. Manchester City, probably the team who can most afford to do it, chose to play with false nines and it’s not done them too much damage.
“We need to be a bit creative. I had a situation at Everton where we didn’t have any forwards and we messed around with Tim Cahill as a centre-forward for a while.
“It can happen during a season, you can lose your forwards or defenders but hopefully we’ll have enough options to keep everybody guessing about how we’re going to play.”
West Ham also have Burnley and Brighton to play next month, though Rice could be back for those games.
Newcastle, meanwhile, have been boosted by the return from injury of their own star forward, Callum Wilson. He could start Sunday’s huge game against Burnley at Turf Moor.