SO much for finishing with a flourish then. Newcastle United have played three games since guaranteeing their Premier League safety earlier this month, and have lost them all. The government keeps telling us that beach breaks are back on after lockdown measures were lifted, and Newcastle’s players appear to have switched into holiday mode two or three weeks too early.

In fairness to Steve Bruce and his players, last night’s performance against a Spurs side trying to scramble into next season’s Europa League was not devoid of effort or energy. Newcastle’s players tried hard enough and created more goalscoring opportunities than their opponents.

It was their concentration that was lacking, however, as they switched off defensively on two occasions to afford their opponents the kind of opportunity they were never going to pass up.

Son Heung-Min took advantage of the first, hammering home after Fabian Schar had been dispossessed, and Harry Kane converted the second, peeling off a leaden-footed Emil Krafth to head home.

Kane’s goal restored Spurs’ lead just four minutes after Matt Ritchie had hammered home a spectacular long-range strike for Newcastle, and the England skipper pounced again in the final minute, heading home after Martin Dubravka parried Erik Lamela’s strike into his path.

Tottenham was some way short of their very best, but it said much that they did not need to be firing on all cylinders to claim all three points. Newcastle, who lost Schar to what looks certain to be a season-ending injury in the closing stage, offered limp opposition, and having spoken bullishly about targeting the top half of the table a couple of weeks ago, Bruce once again finds himself coming under fire. Results like this do nothing to strengthen his position as thoughts inevitably turn to next season.

Last night’s defeat came despite Bruce’s side carving out plenty of chances, indeed they might well have scored twice inside the opening 20 minutes, with Miguel Almiron and Jonjo Shelvey both guilty of some wasteful finishing.

Almiron was unfortunate to see an early goal-bound effort strike Davinson Sanchez in the head, but the Paraguayan had no one to blame but himself in the sixth minute. Krafth, overlapping in the style of one of Sheffield United’s centre-halves, crossed from the left, but while Almiron was perfectly positioned to pick up the ball 14 yards out, he blazed a first-time strike well over the crossbar.

Ten minutes later, and it was Shelvey failing to find the target from an inviting position as Ritchie whipped in a wonderful ball from the left. Shelvey ghosted between two Spurs defenders to get to the edge of the six-yard box, but his header sailed over the top when he should at least have forced Hugo Lloris into a save.

If nothing else, Newcastle’s early chances were at least providing proof of their attacking intent, and with Allan Saint-Maximin playing alongside Dwight Gayle in a front two, the hosts offered an early threat that was conspicuously absent when they last played with a back five in a home game against Manchester City in the cup.

Saint-Maximin embarked on one especially exhilarating dribble midway through the first half, but while the Frenchman completely bamboozled Harry Winks by slipping the ball to one side of him as he ran around the other, his subsequent shot was deflected wide.

Spurs had offered nothing in the attacking third at that stage, but Jose Mourinho’s side boast a plethora of goalscoring options, and it was unlikely that Newcastle were going to be able to contain them for long. Sure enough, when the visitors did fashion their first serious attempt in the 27th minute, it resulted in them claiming the lead.

Schar, who has erred on a number of occasions since returning to the team last month, was at fault again, taking a heavy touch as he attempted to dribble the ball out of his own box, enabling Lucas Moura to seize possession. Spurs moved the ball quickly via Kane and Giovani Lo Celso before Son drilled home a low finish from close to the edge of the area. It was a crisp strike from the South Korean, although his task was made significantly easier by DeAndre Yedlin’s reluctance to close him down.

Son went close again a couple of minutes later, drilling in a deflected strike that Dubravka acrobatically tipped over the crossbar, but aside from an aberrant five minutes, Newcastle remained the better side.

Lloris had to be alert as he tipped Saint-Maximin’s low drive around the post, and when the Spurs goalkeeper was beaten on the stroke of half-time, the woodwork came to the visitors’ rescue. Gayle, whose movement in and around the 18-yard box was impressive all night, stooped to fashion an excellent glanced header after Shelvey crossed from close to the right touchline, but his effort thudded against the inside of the post before the ball was hacked clear.

Newcastle were unfortunate to be behind at the interval, but they finally claimed the goal they merited 11 minutes into the second half.

As was the case in the recent win at Bournemouth, Valentino Lazaro made an instant impact after leaving the bench, dribbling infield before delivering a dangerous cross. Serge Aurier should have dealt with the danger, but despite being under little or no pressure, the full-back cleared the ball straight to a loitering Ritchie.

The Scotsman still had plenty to do as he controlled close to the corner of the box, but he hammered a sensational drive that arrowed across Lloris and nestled in the far top corner. It was Ritchie’s second goal since the end of lockdown, and undoubtedly one of the best scored by the Magpies all season.

It was not, however, the signal for a sustained swing in the scoreline as Spurs restored their lead within four minutes of being pegged back.

Just as Lazaro had made a difference after coming off the bench for the Magpies, so Steven Bergwijn proved an astute choice of replacement from Mourinho. The Dutchman floated over an inviting cross the right, and after peeling off a static Krafth, Kane cushioned a neat header past Dubravka. The England skipper had been a spectator for most of the opening hour, but given half an opening by some more lax Newcastle defending, he did not need a second invitation to pounce.

Newcastle enjoyed plenty of late possession as they tried to restore parity for a second time, but they were undone as Spurs counter-attacked magnificently in the final minute.

A sweeping move ended with Lamela firing in a shot from the left of the box, and while Dubravka parried the ball away, Kane stooped to head home the rebound and claim his second of the night.

It was to be Kane’s final intervention as he hurt himself in the act of scoring, and the evening ended on a bitter note for the Magpies as they suffered an injury issue of their own. Schar was in obvious pain as he tumbled over, and was holding his shoulder as he was helped from the field. With Jamaal Lascelles, Florian Lejeune and Ciaran Clark all unavailable, Bruce is rapidly running out of centre-halves.