Newcastle manager Steve Bruce has backed “crowd-pleaser” Allan Saint-Maximin to continue having an impact following his late winner at Southampton.
The Magpies had gone four matches in the top flight without finding the net, and the pressure increased when Matt Ritchie’s first-half penalty was saved by Alex McCarthy.
But Saint-Maximin’s 79th-minute strike ended the goal drought as Newcastle secured a 1-0 win to climb above Southampton and go eight points clear of the bottom three.
Bruce remains confident the French forward can learn and improve in the future.
“I said it when he walked through the door, that he’s going to be an absolute crowd-pleaser,” the Magpies manager said.
“He has got that natural ability which lets him go past people. He wants to beat you and he can beat anybody on his day because he is that quick and has that centre of balance and that natural ability to go both ways.
“He’s got a lot to learn still – he has got to learn to pass it a little bit more in the final third – but he’s only 22.”
Saint-Maximin has only scored three goals this season, in 21 appearances, although two have come since February.
Bruce added: “Everything with him is totally natural, which you can’t teach, and he has been naturally blessed with it.
“He has got frightening pace and wants to beat you with it. If you’re a defender then he’s always causing you a threat.”
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said goalkeeper Alex McCarthy could catch England manager Gareth Southgate’s eye for an England recall if his performance get more consistent.
McCarthy pulled off a number of stunning saves, including a triple-save to deny Dwight Gayle and Miguel Almiron twice, and a low diving save to prevent Matt Ritchie from giving his side the lead from a first-half penalty.
Hasenhuttl said: “I think he had some very good games this season and, like everyone in the team, some games where he wasn’t so consistent.
“We all have to be more consistent but for a goalkeeper he has been very good and he has to learn to be more consistent.”
On the triple-save, the Austrian added: “He played fantastic and kept us in the game. (With) the penalty he had good self-confidence, and with the goal he had no chance but the rest was perfect.”
When asked whether he could earn himself a return to the England squad, Hasenhuttl replied: “If he plays like this every week, then yes.”