Steve Bruce says he always thought his Newcastle side would be “ok” after getting their “big players” back on the pitch after they escaped from Liverpool with a point.
It didn’t look that way until stoppage time. And even then after sub Callum Wilson’s goal was ruled out it looked bleak for the Magpies. But with seconds remaining Willock collected a flick on in the box and fired past Alisson via a deflection.
It was Willock’s fourth goal for Newcastle and third as a “super-sub” as the Magpies earned a 1-1 draw. It moves them six points clear of the drop zone with five games remaining.
Bruce told the BBC: “I think he will hate the tag because yesterday I devastated him by not putting him in the team.
“I told him the reasons why, then he picks up a knock in training and it was touch and go whether he makes the bench, so to come on and have that impact again, I’m delighted for him. To get three in three, I’m delighted.
“I always thought we were a threat and in the first half we had some really good opportunities but missed the pass – a number of times we didn’t take the right option.
“But when you’ve got Callum and Allan and Almiron on the pitch you know you’ve got a chance, although I didn’t think we would score twice in the last minute which was incredible – because the first one probably shouldn’t have been chalked off.”
Bruce later told BT Sport: “We have to do something about VAR, this rule. It ruins the spectacle. It is the rule, the VAR is doing its job, but who makes these rules? We are good enough to stop Super League, can we not make our own rules in the Premier League? It was an awful one to go against you. We could have won 2-1.
“Joe Willock was devastated yesterday when I told him he was not playing but he has come on in the last three games and scored. I am delighted for him.
“They are very good up front. They have 300 goals between them. We rode our luck a little time in the first half but I always felt we were a threat.
“Just at the right time our big players have come back and that was vitally important. I was quietly confident when we got the big players back we would be ok. Without them we are not quite the same threat.”
Willock: We’re growing in confidence
Goalscorer Willock told BT Sport afterwards: “I’m happy to help the team again. I’m just trying to do my best, even if I get 10, 15 (minutes) or half-an-hour.
“We pushed very hard in the second half and were growing in confidence. Apart from the sloppy goal we gave away the boys did very well today.”
On the disallowed goal, he added: “I felt we didn’t lose confidence. It’s not easy at Anfield, so it shows how much we’ve grown in the past few weeks as a team. We were working in training on getting behind their high line.
“What we’re showing now on the pitch is brilliant and I feel if we can continue we’ll be safe for sure.”
Newcastle’s next game is against Arsenal and on-loan Gunners midfielder Willock said: “I don’t know if I’m allowed to play.
“I’m a Newcastle player now and I’m enjoying every game, learning more and getting closer to the boys. I’m really enjoying my football at the moment.”