Four days after securing their first cup final berth since 1999, the Magpies were held to a frustrating 1-1 Premier League draw by West Ham at St James’ Park on Saturday, slipping below Manchester United in fourth place in the table as a result.
It was their fourth draw in five league outings, two of them on Tyneside, but Howe was pragmatic as he surveyed a result which left his side four points clear of Tottenham in fifth.
He said: “If you can’t win, you don’t lose, and we’ve done that very well. We’ve picked up vital points in this run.
“Yes, we haven’t won the games in the last few that we would have liked, but it’s never going to be plain sailing. We were never going to win every game. It’s such a competitive league, the games are so difficult.”
Howe’s Newcastle team remains a work in progress despite a total investment of more than £250million in the last three transfer windows, but Saturday’s game illustrated the importance of one of his recruits, £35million midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, who was absent through suspension.
Without the mercurial Brazilian, the Magpies lacked the craft and guile to break down a Hammers side which re-grouped admirably after a chaotic start during which Callum Wilson fired the hosts into a third-minute lead and eventually secured a deserved point courtesy of Lucas Paqueta’s equaliser.
Howe said: “I think we missed Bruno today, but we were always going to miss Bruno because he’s so unique and slightly different.
“But I do 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.”
If Guimaraes was conspicuous by his absence, Declan Rice’s presence at the heart of the visitors’ midfield proved key to their resurgence with his performance prompting manager David Moyes to suggest he will smash the British transfer record if and when he leaves the club.
Howe too was full of admiration for Rice’s display.
He said: “He was very good, but that’s no surprise. He’s a top-quality player. He’s done that on the international stage.”
Opposite number Moyes was delighted with a performance and result which extended a recent run of improved form.
He said: “We played incredibly well. After going a goal behind, it would have been easy to buckle and maybe go under with the way the crowd is here and the way they’re playing, so I have to say you’d have to give the players huge credit and huge praise for how well they went about it.
“Look, there’s a long way to go and we’ve only just started when you consider where we’ve been. We’re not enjoying the position we’re in, but I thought today the team played against a team in really good form and matched them and did well against them.”
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