THEY might have slipped back into the Premier League’s bottom three in the wake of their weekend defeat at Chelsea, but Jamaal Lascelles claims Newcastle United’s players have answered the questions that were levelled at them in the wake of their recent King Power capitulation.

Newcastle shipped five goals as they were thrashed at Leicester, and while Isaac Hayden’s dismissal was a mitigating factor, even Steve Bruce felt moved to question his players’ attitude and commitment in the wake of their abject surrender.

Lascelles and his team-mates repaired some of the damage when they beat Manchester United in the final outing prior to the international break, and while they were unable to avoid defeat at Stamford Bridge three days ago, their performance was nevertheless a marked improvement on their previous away game.

The challenge now is to make the most of a run of matches that pits Newcastle against teams in the bottom half of the table, and despite sitting 18th in the table, Lascelles feels the Magpies will head into Sunday’s home game with Wolves having answered a number of their critics.

“We don’t look too much into what is said about us, we just concentrate on the team,” said the Newcastle skipper. “But we do have a lot of character and heart in this team.

“We played Leicester and lost 5-0, but bounced back a week later and beat Man United at home. That shows what character we have got here.

“We have been in worse situations than this, and I have a lot of trust in this team. I am confident we will pick up results now.”

Since reverting to a five-man defence in the wake of their collapse against Leicester, Newcastle have looked much more defensively secure. As Bruce concedes, the defenders within the current squad grew accustomed to playing with three centre-halves under Rafael Benitez, and their skill sets appear much better suited to the current formation, with three central defenders and wing-backs.

However, with added defensive resilience has come a chronic lack of threat in attack. Newcastle failed to record a single effort on target at Stamford Bridge, and no Premier League side has scored fewer goals than the Magpies this season.

Somehow, Bruce has to come up with a way of increasing his side’s attacking threat while retaining their improved organisation and structure at the back. That will not be easy, with key forward players such as Miguel Almiron patently out of form, but there is a shared acknowledgment that Newcastle will only begin to climb the table if they can start to offer more of a threat in front of goal.

“We have set a benchmark in terms of intensity and defending,” said Lascelles. “Now, we just need to be more clinical with our finishing. We’ll be working on other things that can win us games.

“It would be nice to be a bit more consistent too, but it’s the Premier League and every single game is a tough one. What is positive for me is that our form is starting to pick up.

“We put in a really good show against Man United and similar at Chelsea. Form wise, we are okay. It’s not like the Norwich or Leicester game anymore, so there are good signs. Hopefully, now we can start getting results.”

Sunday’s game pits Newcastle against a Wolves side that are starting to find form after a shaky start. Last weekend’s draw with Southampton followed an extremely impressive away win at Manchester City, and means Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are now unbeaten in six matches in all competitions.

They will almost certainly sit deep at the weekend, looking to hit Newcastle on the break, but their preparations for their trip to Gallowgate will be affected by Thursday’s Europa League trip to Slovan Bratislava.
Wolves’ players will only return from Slovakia in the early hours of Friday morning, curtailing their ability to focus on their tactical set-up against Newcastle.

“Every single game is tough, but we have to approach this one in the right way,” said Lascelles. “We’ve had a really tough start to the season - Man United, Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea, Leicester and Arsenal in our opening nine games.

“That’s a really tough start, so when you consider we have eight points out of that, it’s positive. We have been in a lot worse positions. I am just pleased with our performances at the minute, and I know we can build on them."