It’s been 24 hours of mixed emotions for Newcastle United fans despite extending their advantage over the Premier League relegation zone to four points.
The Magpies recorded a third successive win with a 1-0 success against Aston Villa on Sunday night - but that was followed by Kieran Trippier’s foot injury.
January signing Trippier has been integral to the club’s upturn in form and his absence will undoubtedly be felt.
But, there are still reasons to stay optimistic.
Here, our writer Jordan Cronin reflects on the result versus Steven Gerrard’s Villa at St James’ Park:
Kieran Trippier does it again - but at what price?
There was a strange air of expectancy that the net would bulge when Trippier, stand-in captain for the afternoon, stood over the free-kick on the edge of the 18-yard box.
Referee Craig Pawson originally awarded a penalty when Joe Willock was brought down by Callum Chambers before VAR had its first intervention of the afternoon.
But that didn’t matter. It was de ja vu for Trippier as he repeated his Everton success from five days earlier, though this one was far less glamorous.
Not a soul inside St James’ Park cared however as the England right-back found a gap in the wall, which took a deflection off Emi Buendia on its way past the diving Emiliano Martinez.
That 35th-minute strike from Trippier turned out to be the winner - but at what cost to Newcastle United?
Just three minutes into the second-half, the 31-year-old, passed fit from the calf injury picked up against Everton, limped down the tunnel once more after being “stamped on” according to Howe.
After undergoing an x-ray at the Royal Victoria Infirmary hospital less than 600 yards away from St James’ Park, United’s fears were confirmed on Monday morning.
Indeed, Trippier is likely to spend up to six weeks on the sidelines - and possibly more - after fracturing the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot.
It’s hard to overstate how big of a blow that is for Newcastle given the impact Trippier has had on and off the pitch in his five games so far.
This is another real test of Newcastle’s character that they simply must answer. They must find a way to win without Trippier and seal top-flight safety.
Winning without recognised leaders
Injuries cut through Newcastle at the end of the first and beginning of the second-half as Javier Manquillo and Trippier left the field injured.
Manquillo started at left-back in place of the ineligible Matt Targett and performed impressively up until the 43rd minute when he was unable to shake off an earlier tangle with Buendia.
With changes to both full-backs position with Paul Dummett and Emil Krafth needing to be introduced, the afternoon threatened to swing in Villa’s favour as they found some fresh impetus.
But in truth, minus Ollie Watkins’ disallowed goal, the visitors, although enjoyed plenty of possession, barely got a sniff at Martin Dubravka’s goal as United held out for a massive three points.
It was extra pleasing to witness the Newcastle defence see out the game without two of their main leaders.
Club captain Jamaal Lascelles was missing from the backline through illness, while Trippier’s influence speaks for itself.
Two big voices down but Krafth, Fabian Schar, Dan Burn and Dummett stood tall.
Again, similar character and performances will be required in Trippier’s absence.
Big Dan Burn
Burn became Newcastle’s first central defender signing since the summer of 2018 when he joined from Brighton and Hove Albion for £13million on deadline day.
Linked with the likes of Sevilla’s Diego Carlos and Lille’s Sven Botman, it wasn’t perhaps the marquee centre-back United fans were looking for in a bid to shore a leaky defence.
But after his display against Aston Villa, Burn looks every bit of a shrewd piece of business from Howe as he marked his debut for his boyhood club with a win and a clean sheet.
He was calm, composed and held his position perfectly alongside Fabian Schar in the Newcastle backline, both of whom resembled a brick wall.
But Burn also showed the fight, passion and determination needed in the relegation dog fight when he quite amusingly took a chunk of Tyrone Mings’ shirt during a tussle and threw it into the Leazes End.
Newcastle strike lucky with VAR?
For the first time in what felt like a long time, especially after all the controversy over Christmas, Newcastle had a VAR decision that went in their favour.
Plenty of Villa fans were aggrieved by VAR’s decision to rule out Watkins’ equaliser in the 60th minute. And in any other given season, their feelings might be understood.
But you only have to cast your mind back to August at Villa Park when Callum Wilson was denied a penalty for a very similar marginal offside in the build-up.
Although VAR has its faults and continues to bring anger and frustration across the county, in this instance, both incidents have now been somewhat evened out.
Finally, some consistency.
Carrying on the momentum
Without wanting to get too far ahead, Newcastle’s turnaround since that disappointing Watford draw at home on January 15 has been hugely impressive.
Had anyone told United fans that night their team would win three games in a row and be four points above the drop zone, it’d probably have been hard to believe.
Outsiders will point towards the club’s January business being the difference but it isn’t yet, only three of five signings have started against Everton and Villa.
It’s mostly about heart and the players continuing to buy into Howe’s methods.
There is still a long way to go, of course, but momentum is building on Tyneside, and Howe’s side have a chance to maintain that in away games against West Ham and Brentford before February is out.