Bruce bidding for back-to-back wins against Bournemouth
Written by Luke Vinton
Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce is determined to build on last weekend's victory at West Ham United ahead of the Magpies' visit of Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 3pm GMT).
United host the Cherries at St. James' Park and go in search of successive Premier League wins for the first time since April following an impressive 3-2 away win against the Hammers in the capital.
However, Bruce confirmed he will remain without the services of Fabian Schär and Matt Ritchie although the head coach shed some positive news on the progression of centre-back Florian Lejeune, with the Frenchman - who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in April - playing 70 minutes for United's second-string on Monday night.
"Matt Ritchie and Fabian Schär haven't made it," the 58-year-old said. "Unfortunately, they've still got a bit to do. We still don't think it's that bad with Fab and Matt is a bit of a concern because he was going along so well. He had a reaction to training so we've given him a bit of time off and come off his ankle to see how that does.
"Lejeune is good. It's a bit too early for this weekend but he's come through the training schedule he has been on. He's fine and we just need to get some more minutes into him if we possibly can. He's back training, played 70 minutes the other night and is chomping at the bit."
Newcastle are unbeaten at home since their opening-day defeat against Arsenal and Bruce has been pleased with the reaction shown from his side since their disappointing 5-0 defeat to Leicester City in September.
The Magpies sit in 15th position on 12 points and although four points separate United from Eddie Howe's Cherries, who sit in seventh place of the top flight, Bruce's squad lie only four points above the relegation zone.
"It's close," Bruce added. "This time last year there was two adrift already so it's very close. We'll hope to reel Bournemouth in tomorrow which would be great.
"When you come up against it and, let's be fair we weren't very good (against Leicester), you need a reaction. The last few weeks have proved that they have knuckled down and done very well. It's important that we continue it. We've only shown signs but, especially in the first hour of last week, it was terrific to watch.
"The supporters can see a direction we're trying to go into and I think they were pleasantly pleased of what they saw last week in particular. The one thing is we've got to keep it going. Back-to-back wins in the Premier League are huge so hopefully we can go and do it in front of our own supporters which would be nice.
"We're edging towards it and I was delighted with the way we played last week and it's important to back it up. If we can get back-to-back wins and to 15 points before the big December fixture pile-up then that would be a good return."
Joelinton is the only forward to find the target so far this term after scoring against Tottenham in August but, with Miguel Almirón and Allan Saint-Maximin still awaiting a maiden goal for the Magpies, Bruce believes time is the essence for his young attackers still adapting to English football.
He said: "We know that they’ve still got to score but it was good for Joelinton to make one (against West Ham). I know they’re a threat. They’re young, they’re getting used to playing in England and in the Premier League, whoever you are, sometimes that takes time."