LAST week, Newcastle United secured a place in their first major final for more than two decades, extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 16 matches and retained a top-four spot as their battle for Champions League qualification continues.

So, the fact that the overriding emotion in the wake of Saturday’s draw with West Ham was one of frustration and disappointment underlines just how far the Magpies have come since they were unravelling as they last hosted the Hammers on the opening weekend of last season.

Back then, Steve Bruce’s side were all over the place as they lost 4-2, a defeat that would spark a run of 15 games in all competitions without a victory. That was a period of full-blown crisis. This, as Eddie Howe’s Newcastle side struggle to quite hit the levels they were producing as they were blowing sides away immediately before the World Cup break, is a source of minor irritation. Perspective can be a hard thing to retain amid the maelstrom of the footballing calendar, but when it comes to the Magpies, and their new sense of ambition, it is important to bear it in mind.

“Because of our form this season, these types of games feel like defeats,” admitted Howe, after Lucas Paqueta’s close-range strike cancelled out Callum Wilson’s third-minute opener. “But when you’re in my shoes, it’s important to see the bigger perspective and see other things.

“I have to make sure the players don’t overreact to what is a point. People might say it’s a disappointment, but it depends on what context you’re looking at. You can see four draws in five, or you can see 16 games unbeaten. I like to be realistic, look at it objectively and not rose-tint it, but I can’t criticise the players for what they’ve delivered. It’s still been a very positive week for us.”

Any criticism of Newcastle’s recent performances needs to acknowledge the huge strides that have been made this season, but while the Magpies’ defence continues to function superbly, not withstanding the concession of a first league goal for seven league matches at the weekend, it is far from unfair to point out that the attack is running rather less smoothly at the moment.

Since hammering Leicester in their first game back after the World Cup, Newcastle have scored just two goals in their last five league matches. Wilson took his weekend goal excellently, racing on to Sean Longstaff’s through ball and slotting a composed finish past Lukasz Fabianski, but he failed to get a shot away when presented with a similar chance in the second half and still not look at his sharpest.

Miguel Almiron’s form has dipped after his remarkable autumn, Joe Willock has not scored since mid-November and, at the weekend, Newcastle undoubtedly missed the creative prompting of Bruno Guimaraes. Allan Saint-Maximin, making his first league start since August, looked extremely rusty on the left-hand side, and having spent £45m to sign Anthony Gordon in the final week of the transfer window, it will be interesting to see how long it takes Howe to promote the England Under-21 international into his starting line-up.

“I think we missed Bruno,” conceded Howe. “But we were always going to miss Bruno because he’s so unique. I think our midfield players who played in his absence all played well - I don’t think it’s a criticism of them – I just think he’s irreplaceable. You’re going to miss him, and I think we missed his creative eye more than anything else.”

With Guimaraes suspended, Declan Rice was able to produce a midfield masterclass that wrestled the initiative back from Newcastle and enabled West Ham to claim what was eventually a deserved point. The Magpies are yet to make what might be termed a ‘statement signing’ following their Saudi Arabian takeover – if, as looks likely, Rice becomes available this summer, the England midfielder is the type of player Newcastle should be moving heaven and earth to try to recruit.

“Declan is going to be a top player,” said David Moyes. “Undoubtedly, he'll be a British transfer record if he ever leaves West Ham.”