Bruce optimistic despite prolonged winless streak

Soccer Football - Premier League - Aston Villa v Newcastle United - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - January 23, 2021 Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce Pool via REUTERS/Clive Brunskill

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce put on a brave face after a 2-0 Premier League defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday extended their winless streak in all competitions in 10 games.

Newcastle never looked like getting anything after falling behind and were fortunate not to concede more goals but Bruce was hopeful their fortunes would change after suffering a fourth straight league defeat since the turn of the year.

"There were large parts of it I was pleased about, certainly the addition of Allan Saint-Maximin and Ryan Fraser," he told Sky Sports.

"I have seen enough to be encouraged. Yes we have to accept defeat but there was enough there to work on. We have found it difficult to score a goal but I was encouraged, especially when those two got on the pitch.

"Having them two back and then a couple more, we are not as injury ravaged. The big players in the team who can score and create a goal for us are getting back."

Saint-Maximin and Fraser came on with 20 minutes left but failed to trouble Villa, who ended their own four-match winless run in all competitions.

Villa manager Dean Smith was pleased with his team's performance and striker Ollie Watkins, who ended his nine-game scoring drought in the league with an opportunist 13th-minute opener.

Bertrand Traore added the second in the 42nd with a fine first-time finish and Villa missed several chances in the second half against the subdued visitors.

"Really pleased for Watkins, it always weighs on forwards' minds and it was nice to get an early goal for himself. Solid performance at 2-0 and another clean sheet at home.

"I thought we were good, especially in the first half. We overplayed a little in the second and could have scored a couple more."

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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