Alongside Willock: Newcastle’s “special” gem passed Howe’s big test against Wolves

Newcastle United ended their recent wobble by edging past Wolverhampton Wanderers at St James’ Park on Sunday evening, with Eddie Howe’s claiming all three points for the first time since beating Fulham back in January.

Having gone five Premier League games without a win – as well as losing in the Carabao Cup final to Manchester United – the Magpies had hit something of a rocky patch heading into yesterday’s encounter, with the club’s top-four hopes beginning to ebb way.

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Despite those recent frustrations, the Tynesiders produced an excellent response to see off Julen Lopetegui’s side, with goals from Alexander Isak and Miguel Almiron proving the difference either side of Hwang Hee-chan’s close-range effort.

That impressive showing proved a welcome return to the side for midfield star, Joe Willock, with the former Arsenal man – who hadn’t started in the league since the draw with West Ham United – leading the way with his 7.8 match rating, as per Scorescore.

That eye-catching display from the 23-year-old saw the playmaker registers an assist for Almiron’s late strike and provides two key passes in total, having also completed four of his six dribbles and won a solid six ground duels.

The London-born dynamo was not the only figure to have proven his worth in that 2-1 triumph, however, with compatriot Jacob Murphy also making the most of what was a rare start in the league.

How did Murphy perform against Wolves?

While Murphy has been a regular fixture under Howe during the latter man’s tenure to date – having featured more frequently than any other player in that time – the 28-year-old has largely been an impact player off the bench this season, making just six league starts thus far.

As such, it was undoubtedly a bold call for the Newcastle boss to include the winger in his starting lineup for the visit of the Old Gold, although the experienced asset seemed to have passed that test with flying colours.

As the Chronicle’s Jordan Cronin stated, Murphy deserves a “special mention” for his performance against the Midlands side, having “more than justified his selection” despite the initial concern over his inclusion in the side.

The former Norwich City speedster simply ‘ran himself into the ground’ in that relentless display down the right flank, as per journalist Lee Ryder, notably winning four duels as a marker of that willing work ethic.

The £35k-per-week machine also attempted five crosses and completed 12 of his 16 passes, having showcased a real desire to make things happen in the final third – even while losing possession on 13 occasions.

There is, undoubtedly, a need for the 5 foot 10 menace to provide a greater end product when it matters, although it will be truly invaluable for Howe to have such a committed and hard-working figure to call upon when needed.

With January arrival Anthony Gordon facing a brief spell on the sidelines due to injury, there is now likely to be an even greater onus on Murphy to perform, with Sunday’s 85-minute outing seemingly indicating that the Wembley-born gem is up to the task .

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