- Alexander Isak put Newcastle in front from the penalty spot in the first half
- Chris Wood brought Nottingham Forest level on the stroke of half time
- Wood scored twice more in the second half to complete his hat-trick
Chris Wood played 20 times for Newcastle at home and did not score once from open play.
He netted three in quarter of an hour here in what was undeniably his best performance yet at St James’ Park. His next best was perhaps in the colours of Leeds when scoring an injury-time equaliser six years ago.
So, when Newcastle sold him to Nottingham Forest for £15million earlier this year, it was heralded as a wonderful piece of business. For Forest, perhaps. On this evidence, when Wood morphed into Lionel Messi in the second half, it was his new club who got the best of that deal.
And it was hard to determine what was the more surprising – Wood’s killer instinct or Forest winning away? Before this, they had won only one of their previous 19 on the road. It was all pretty easy, too.
Forget that Newcastle took the lead through Alexander Isak’s first-half penalty, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side always looked likely scorers on the break.
Chris Wood celebrates scoring a hat-trick for Nottingham Forest against his former club
Wood took home the match ball after scoring three goals in 15 minutes either side of half time
The new boss, in his first away game, did not look panicked at 0-1, and with good reason. Morgan Gibbs-White and Anthony Elanga were skipping through Newcastle’s midfield at will, and terrifying their defence when clear.
What Forest needed was cutting edge in the penalty area, a quality Newcastle were so badly lacking. Enter Wood. He levelled in first-half stoppage-time when the visitors broke and Gibbs-White found Elanga on the right. The winger rolled into the six-yard area and there was Wood to tap in.
Isak had converted from the spot on 23 minutes after he was tripped by Ola Aina, but Eddie Howe’s team were never in control – and this is six defeats in seven now.
Alexander Isak had given Newcastle the lead in the first half from the penalty spot
Forest’s comeback victory was their first win under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo
Newcastle’s disastrous December came to a dire end as they were beaten at home
The mitigation of injuries and fatigue remains, but that is starting to feel like a tired excuse now, especially when there are glaring holes in a midfield desperate for an anchoring presence.
Wood got his second on 53 minutes when Elanga set him free and he skipped around the recovering Sven Botman before dinking over Martin Dubravka. It was Messi-esque.
And so was his hat-trick goal on the hour, this time making a dummy of the entire back four as he ran onto Murillo’s wedge over the top and stepped around Dubravka before rolling home. There could, and should, have been more for Forest, who were better in every department as the game wore on.
For Newcastle and Howe, the issues that have plagued their away form are now appearing at home. They had chances and territory but did not have a forward player to convert. They once had Wood, of course.
More to follow…