Newcastle striker Saint-Maximin faces fitness race ahead of Fulham clash

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed Allan Saint-Maximin has suffered an injury setback — and the Newcastle United forward now faces a race against time to be fit to face Fulham in a fortnight.

Howe’s United lacked cutting edge on Saturday, as their starting XI, minus Saint-Maximin, struggled to break down a resolute AFC Bournemouth at St. James’ Park.

While Alexander Isak netted his second goal in three games since arriving in the summer, a Philip Billing strike ensured honors remained even — and consigned United to their fifth draw in their opening seven Premier League games.

And while Howe admits the Magpies missed their French forward, he is fearful United will have to do without him for a little bit longer.

“There’s a massive hole for someone like Maxi in a game like this when you need a little magic to unlock the door,” said Howe.

“With Allan, it’s slightly different (the injury). He has had a very minor setback with the physio.

“Whether or not he’ll be fit after the international is slightly unclear, but it’s certainly not long-term. It’s not clear if he’ll be fit for our next game yet.”

Without Saint-Maximin United have struggled to break down the door against two sides — Crystal Palace and Bournemouth — who are expected to occupy places in the bottom half of the Premier League. Both of those encounters have come on home turf and are very much being viewed by many as four points dropped.

Howe admits he is frustrated by what his side have dished up at St. James’ Park.

“Very disappointed,” he said. “I thought that was a performance below the levels that we’ve set ourselves. Probably for the first time this season, we dipped.”

He continued: “It’s difficult to know why at this moment. I felt we played in front of them too much, they obviously defended very deep. It was our responsibility to break through that and I just felt we were off a little in every aspect of their game.

“It was probably epitomised by the last 20 minutes. When we scored, you thought the game was set up for us to win and our decision-making and patience left us.

“It was a difficult watch at the end of the game. We needed to set ourselves and re-energise ourselves. We could have won the game but obviously it slipped away from us.”

United have now won just one of their opening seven top flight games, although they have also only lost once in that sequence.

“There’s a big sense of frustration in terms of the points we have because the majority of our performances have been very strong and we’ve deserved more from the games but the reality is we haven’t won those games we should have,” the head coach continued.

“We find ourselves in a position where we’ve only lost once and won once, a lot of draws. A lot of games, even similar to today, we had a number of chances, maybe not clear cut chances like Crystal Palace, but a number of chances where we weren’t clinical enough when those moments came.

“In a game like that, you really need to take the lead to try and open up your opponent. Lots of things we didn’t do well enough today. Most pleasing thing is we go a goal down and recovered and didn’t lose the game.”

Meanwhile, Howe has confirmed he expects Callum Wilson back for the visit to Craven Cottage after the international break.

“Callum’s doing very well,” Howe added. “We’re really pleased with his progress.

“He was close for today but we made an early decision that it would have been too big of a risk, so we hope, with a bit more time, there’s a chance the next game will be good for him.”

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