STEVE BRUCE insists he is able to take “encouragement” from Newcastle United’s 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa – even though the result means his side have now gone ten games without a win in all competitions.

Newcastle were deservedly beaten at Villa Park, with first-half goals from Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore ensuring they remain just seven points clear of the relegation zone.

The result has led to increased calls for Bruce’s dismissal, with banners having been hung outside St James’ Park demanding a change of manager.

However, Bruce insists there were reasons to be positive despite his side’s latest setback, with the return of Allan Saint-Maximin and Ryan Fraser as second-half substitutes regarded as a major plus.

Bruce said: “What encouraged me was to see Ryan and Allan on the pitch because, straightaway, we looked more of a threat. At the top end of the pitch, scoring a goal is the reason why Ryan, Allan and Callum (Wilson) are in the team.

“I think it’s the first time all season I’ve been able to see a glimpse from them. They will certainly make us better in that department. As we’ve said all along, that’s the difficult part of the Premier League, to create and score a goal. I was encouraged because those two coming onto the pitch, I know will make us better.”

Newcastle have scored just one goal in more than eight hours of action, but Bruce remains convinced his side will pull themselves away from trouble.

He said: “I know this group of players are capable. We’ve done it before. We’ve had a particularly tough times in terms of illness and injuries, and it’s the first time I’ve seen Allan and Ryan in tandem.

“That’s the encouraging part. Let’s hope they can stay fit and healthy, and if they do that, then I’m absolutely convinced we’ll be okay.”