A JUBILANT Steve Bruce hailed Magpies match-winner Allan Saint-Maximin as “quite a find” after the Frenchman played a starring role in Newcastle United’s emphatic 4-1 thrashing of Bournemouth.

Bruce’s side recorded their biggest away win of the season as they cut loose on the south coast, with the victory lifting them to within two points of the top half of the table.

Saint-Maximin laid on both of Newcastle’s first-half goals, teeing up Dwight Gayle’s fifth-minute opener before embarking on a mazy dribble that led to Sean Longstaff doubling the Magpies’ lead.

The Frenchman was at it again in the second half, claiming his third assist as he set up Miguel Almiron, before Valentino Lazaro completed the rout with a clinical strike with 13 minutes remaining.

Saint-Maximin took a while to find his feet after joining Newcastle in a £17m move from Nice last summer, but his displays either side of lockdown have been sensational and his capture increasingly looks like a superb piece of business.

“Every ground I go to, people want to talk about him,” said Bruce. “We’ve seen what he is like when he’s fit, and I think the lockdown has helped him with his hamstring.

“He had that nasty hamstring injury, but he seems to be over it now, and he’s a wonderful, wonderful talent. He’s just got to keep his feet on the ground and not get too carried away, because he’s still got a lot to do.

“But three assists in a game just shows what he’s capable of. There are still things he has to learn, but he’s a real, real talent, and a real find for the club. He gets you off your seat. He can be hard work at times to manage, don’t get me wrong, but he’s a really wonderful talent.”

Saint-Maximin became only the third player in Newcastle’s history to claim three assists in a single Premier League game – Andy Cole and Moussa Sissoko were the others – and having practiced his dribbling against his dog at his home during lockdown, he is rapidly evolving into one of the most exciting wide players in the English game.

“It doesn’t surprise me when he contributes like that,” added Bruce. “He’s got a big future. Assists are just important as goals, so when you’ve got someone like that in your team, it’s great. He can only get better. He’s only just 23, so let’s just hope he’s got more to come.”

Having exited the FA Cup at the hands of Manchester City on Sunday, and with their Premier League safety all-but-assured ahead of yesterday’s game, Newcastle’s players could have been forgiven for lacking motivation.

Instead, it was the Bournemouth side that looked bereft of energy and appetite, with Bruce delighted at his side’s response to their weekend disappointment.

The win takes Newcastle to the 42-point mark – three points short of the total that was achieved under Rafael Benitez last season – and Bruce has challenged his players to force themselves into the top ten in their remaining six matches.

“If we could do that, it would be great for everybody concerned,” he said. “Can we get ourselves in the top ten? I would be delighted if we could – it would be some achievement.

“A lot of people wrote everybody off, including myself and the players, but they’ve responded in the right way. I’m delighted for them. You roll your sleeves up and say, ‘I’ll show them’. It makes you work harder and spurs you on.”

The one disappointment on an otherwise enjoyable evening was the injuries that affected Newcastle’s players. Sean Longstaff damaged his hamstring after scoring his side’s second goal, while Javier Manquillo also suffered a knock that could sideline him for a significant part of the remainder of the season.

“We’ve got a few, although I’ll not quite know how bad for a little while,” said Bruce. “Sean’s got a hamstring that kept him off, which is a blow because I thought it was as good as I’ve seen him look. We’ve got one or two others – Manquillo’s got a bit of a strain – but I’ll not really know for the next 24 or 48 hours.”