Steve Bruce has warned Newcastle to beware in-form Southampton striker Danny Ings as they attempt to end their wait for a Premier League victory.
The Magpies have won only one of their last 10 league games and head for St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday having failed to score in their last four, a return which has seen them slip too close for comfort to the relegation zone.
Boosted by their progression to the FA Cup quarter-finals as a result of their midweek victory at West Brom, they hope to address that on the south coast but Bruce knows that might be easier said than done if Ings has anything to do with it.
Asked how big a threat he represents, the Newcastle head coach said: “A big threat. If you’ve got a centre-forward who’s got 15 goals – which he has – then they’re a threat.
“(Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang’s the top goalscorer, is he, with 17 in the Premier League? And then you’ve got Danny Ings in a team that’s been in the bottom half of the division. It’s a quite remarkable tally, so fair play to him.
“He’s playing right at the height of his talent, so we’ll have to guard against him that’s for sure.”
Arsenal’s Aubameyang and Leicester counterpart Jamie Vardy are currently leading the way on 17 league goals with Manchester City star Sergio Aguero one behind, and Bruce believes that is a measure of Ings’ feat.
He said: “You don’t get many now getting 20 like they used to, or a (former Newcastle striker Alan) Shearer who gets 30 or 40. It’s quite remarkable.
“If a striker now gets probably a dozen, 15, then they’ve done remarkably well and that’s how difficult the Premier League is.
“When you look with 10 games to go, what is it, Aubameyang 17, is it? Aguero 16? These are superstars, and then you’ve got somebody like Danny, who has had a remarkable season.”
Bruce has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip south and has been boosted by the news that midfielders Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey have signed contract extensions until 2023.
The focus will now turn to brothers Sean and Matty Longstaff, the latter of whom is in the final few months of his existing deal.
Bruce said: “We all know what I think about Matty, we’re hoping something can get sorted.
“Players now, when they’re running out of their contract, it’s on their toes too. Let’s hope he wants to stay with us.”