STEVE BRUCE admits his Newcastle United side have had a “difficult week” – and revealed Federico Fernandez was taken off at half-time against Fulham because he was showing signs of fatigue.

Having been thrashed at Leeds United on Wednesday, Newcastle were unable to see off ten-man Fulham as they were held to a 1-1 draw.

Callum Wilson’s penalty cancelled out Matt Ritchie’s first-half own goal, but Bruce was disappointed with his side’s lacklustre display.

He said: “We haven’t done enough today, both with the ball and without it. Even with the ten men, we struggled to find enough quality to open up Fulham, who I thought were very impressive.

“We’ve had a difficult week. We’ll take the point and move on, but we will certainly have to play better than we’ve played today.

“We kept giving the ball away, and unfortunately we did that too often against Leeds too. If you do that at this level, then you’re going to have a struggle.

“We have to look after the ball better, and be better with it and without it. Certainly, in the last week in particular, we’ve had a difficult time.

“I don’t want to make excuses, but we’ve had a remarkably difficult time, and when you’re having to make substitutions at half-time through illness, it’s difficult. It’s been a juggling act, and we’ve found it very difficult.”

Fernandez’s half-time departure was due to fatigue, and while it is not know whether the centre-half is one of the Newcastle players to have only recently recovered from contracting coronavirus, the Covid outbreak that forced the recent closure of the club’s training ground is clearly continuing to have a major effect.

Bruce said: “It’s caused through illness. We think so. That’s the problem – the virus can prove negative, but unfortunately it’s the after-effects and the fatigue side of it.

“When we have somebody like Feddy, who is the greatest pro anybody could work with, then of course it’s difficult.”

Fulham boss Scott Parker was extremely frustrated at the decision to award Newcastle penalty as he felt Andersen’s foul on Wilson took place outside the area, with the striker then tumbling inside the box without any further contact.

Parker said: “I think there will definitely be an appeal. I’ve looked at the penalty incident, and I’m not saying this with the emotion, but I just don’t know how he’s given a penalty.

“The initial foul took place outside the box. Callum Wilson then steps in the box and falls over. Two years ago, with VAR, you take it on the chin. At real speed, you can maybe see why the decision has been given.

“But we’ve got VAR now. He goes over and has a look at the screen. The initial contact takes place outside the box, and that’s what’s concerning.

“We brought VAR in to get correct decisions, but I’m sitting here again and I’m not really sure how he’s got to that decision.”