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Bruce waiting on trio's fitness ahead of Hammers clash

Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce is waiting on the fitness of some of his key players as the Magpies look to extend their unbeaten run to six Premier League games against West Ham on Sunday afternoon (2:15pm kick-off).

The Hammers arrive at St. James’ Park fresh from a 3-2 win over Chelsea in midweek, but United are in fine form themselves, with the 4-1 thrashing of Bournemouth on Wednesday moving them to within three point of a place in the top half of the table.

And Bruce – who may again opt to make changes after some impressive displays on the south coast - admitted that while midfielder Sean Longstaff is unlikely to feature after being withdrawn injured following his first league goal of the season against the Cherries, he was impressed by the fringe players who came into the side and excelled in that emphatic victory at the Vitality Stadium.

“We’ve got one or two – I don’t think Sean Longstaff will make it, and we’re waiting on Joelinton,” he said.

“Jamaal (Lascelles)’s got a nasty knock to his ankle, so we’ll see how he is. We’ve still got another 48 hours or so before the game, so let’s hope it’s good news.

“All credit to the players who came in – they all had the bit between their teeth, and I was delighted for (Nabil) Bentaleb in particular, and (Valentino) Lazaro and Emil Krafth, who has had to wait patiently. They’ve all come here to try and prove themselves in the Premier League, and certainly their performance the other night was great to see.”

Newcastle’s results following Project Restart have seen their head coach Bruce and in-form winger Allan Saint-Maximin nominated for the Premier League’s Barclays Manager of the Month and the EA Sports Player of the Month awards respectively.

Bruce was quick to pay tribute to his backroom staff after earning the nomination, while he also heaped praise on Frenchman Saint-Maximin’s dazzling showings.

“The team are what put you in this situation, and of course the team I have around me as well. It’s a big pat on the back for them too, to be nominated, especially in this league,” said Bruce. “It’s great. Fair play to the people who work for me and the team, who have performed very, very well over the last month or so. I’m very, very pleased.

“Every interview I do now, the big talking point is Allan. I think people enjoy watching him and I said from day one that if you haven’t seen this kid play before, then you’re going to enjoy watching him. He’s certainly different – he’s certainly blessed with natural ability that most people haven’t got. The assist he made the other night for Sean’s goal – I don’t think there’s anybody on the pitch who could beat three men in five yards like he did and set it up the way he did.

“He’s still got a long, long way to go, and to add that finishing touch to that natural ability he’s got, but certainly we’re delighted with his improvement and also the way he is now adapting to the Premier League. Make no mistake, its’ always difficult, but he’s on the right road and that’s pleasing for everybody.”

David Moyes’ Hammers, meanwhile, arrive on Tyneside in buoyant mood following their last-minute win over Chelsea at the London Stadium.

And with Sunday’s opponents eager for the points that would move them further away from the drop zone, Bruce warned his side to expect a battle as he bids to plot a repeat of the 3-2 win in the capital back in November.

“Not many teams score three against Chelsea. Unfortunately for us, they’ve just had a real confidence boost and a little shot in the arm if they’ve ever needed it,” he said. “They produced arguably the result of the week, so congratulations to them – Moyesy will be delighted.

“We know what to expect. This is how hard this Premier League is – a club at the bottom can score three times against Chelsea, which doesn’t happen in other countries around the world.

“They’ve got a really top manager in Moyesy, who’s been there, done it and worn the t-shirt, but he’ll want to back this up with another couple of positive results. With six games to go and especially with no supporters, it’s difficult for all those clubs at the bottom.

“They’ve had a great result, so we know it’s going to be difficult for us, that’s for sure – they always are. But we had one of our best performances down there – let’s hope we can repeat that again.”

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