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Eddie Howe saluted game-changer Callum Wilson after seeing him come off the bench to fire Newcastle ever-closer to Champions League qualification.

The 31-year-old England striker was left out of the starting line-up despite scoring twice at Everton on Thursday evening, but took full advantage of his introduction at the start of the second half to help himself to another double as the Magpies turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 win.

In the process, Wilson reached 15 goals for the season to remind onlookers that record signing Alexander Isak is not the only player who can put opposition defenders to the sword.

Head coach Howe said: “Callum was exceptional – he changed the game for us.

“First and foremost, he comes on with the right attitude, as he always does. He’s got that desire to score, for the team and for himself as well, and he could have had a hat-trick. It was an outstanding display from Callum.”

For the second time this season, Wilson found himself named only among the substitutes after scoring a brace – a fate also suffered by Isak and Jacob Murphy in recent weeks – although Howe insisted he had not been banging on his door to ask him why.

He said: “We’ve had discussions and talks, but there’s been no bending the ear.

“I know he’s desperate to play every minute of every game, but I do think I have a duty to manage him as well and make sure that he stays fit for as long as possible because when he is fit and playing and doing what he did today, I don’t think there’s anyone better.

Newcastle United v Southampton – Premier League – St James’ Park
Bruno Guimaraes (centre) celebrates Newcastle’s second goal (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“I’m delighted for him, and it obviously gives me food for thought as we go through the last five games.

“In a three-game week previously, Callum would probably have played every game – and every minute of every game – and that might have meant he picked up an injury, so we can manage him carefully.

“But what I would say is that in times where he has been managed, his attitude has been absolutely first-class. That’s why he’s able to perform as he has.”

Meanwhile, Howe revealed that X-rays have confirmed midfielder Sean Longstaff did not suffer a foot fracture at Everton and could yet play again this season.

The victory – Newcastle’s eighth in nine Premier League outings – kept them in third place, two points clear of Manchester United who have a game in hand, with time running out fast for the chasing pack.

It was secured in starkly different fashion to those over Tottenham and Everton in the past week, with Stuart Armstrong stunning the home crowd with a 41st-minute opener before Wilson intervened either side of substitute Theo Walcott’s own goal.

The Saints were more than in the game at the break but succumbed tamely after it to leave boss Ruben Selles wounded, but defiant.

He said: “I’m very positive. We’re still alive, it’s still six points. I’m going to go to try to win the next four games, as I have been trying to do in every single game since I took the team.

“My chances are still there and I’m going to grab every single percentage of that. I know it’s low, but I’m going to fight until the very end of the season.”