Newcastle 1-0 Sheffield United: Willock’s fine form continues

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Joe Willock Newcastle

Arsenal youngster Joe Willock scored his sixth goal and six league games to secure Newcastle a 1-0 win over Sheffield United.

On a night when Allan Saint-Maximin turned in a virtuoso performance to mesmerise the relegated Blades’ defence, the 10,000 members of the Toon Army allowed into St James’ Park for the first time since February last year implored the 21-year-old Arsenal loanee in song to make Tyneside his home next season.

They also made their feelings clear about owner Mike Ashley and the Premier League as the club’s takeover saga rumbles on, but in the main they celebrated a 1-0 win which took the club to 42 points, two fewer than they managed last season with a game to go.

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The Magpies turned in one of their most dismal performances of a difficult season in the reverse fixture in January as Sheffield United won their first league game of the campaign at the 18th attempt, and their start suggested they were keen to right an egregious wrong.

However, it was the visitors who should have taken the lead with seven minutes gone when Ben Osborn and defender Enda Stevens capitalised on a lapse of concentration to set up David McGoldrick, who missed the target with just goalkeeper Martin Dubravka to beat.

The former Republic of Ireland striker was equally wasteful when he was allowed to control John Egan’s 11th-minute cross, but fired high over on the turn.

Joelinton saw a 15th-minute effort blocked and Jacob Murphy skied over from the rebound after Saint-Maximin had made the most of Miguel Almiron’s steal from Oliver Norwood’s underhit pass, but it took a superb save by Aaron Ramsdale to keep Newcastle out 12 minutes later.

Saint-Maximin and Matt Ritchie combined down the left before the Scot floated in a cross which Jonjo Shelvey met with a firm downward header, only to see the keeper throw out a hand and palm it away.

Newcastle were growing into the game with the Frenchman and Willock causing all kinds of problems for the Blades, and it was the latter who finally made the breakthrough in the fourth minute of added time at the end of the first half.

Saint-Maximin picked out Murphy’s run down the right with an inch-perfect pass and he crossed for the midfielder to head powerfully past the helpless Ramsdale.

Almiron fired wide after more trickery by Saint-Maximin as the second half got under way and the Frenchman blasted over after Willock had picked him out in space.

Saint-Maximin was terrorising the Blades rearguard and Ramsdale had to make an important 59th-minute block at his near post to repel his effort after he had raced in behind defender Egan.

But as long as there was only a goal in it, Paul Heckingbottom’s men had hope, and that grew with 19 minutes remaining when Saint-Maximin hobbled off.

McGoldrick clipped the bar with a cheeky 77th-minute attempt which sent Dubravka back-pedalling anxiously towards his line, but that was as close as they came to rescuing a point.