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Nuno Espirito Santo is backing striker Chris Wood to fire Nottingham Forest away from Premier League trouble after seeing him plunder a hat-trick to fell former club Newcastle.

The New Zealand international, who left Tyneside for the City Ground this summer having played his part in Newcastle’s top-flight survival fight two seasons ago, scored one goal for the Magpies in 20 appearances at St James’ Park, but trebled that on a memorable afternoon to secure a 3-1 Boxing Day win.

Asked if the 32-year-old could become prolific this season, new head coach Espirito Santo said: “I think so, I really believe so.

“He did it last week, today he did it again. It’s about the team helping, so it’s not only him, it’s how we want to do things to create chances for him. But I’m very happy with him now.

“Chris Wood, we know him, everybody knows him. He’s been in the game for a while now, but the way he did it today, how he scored, how he was in the right moments – the second goal is beautiful, it’s beautiful, the one v one and then the composure to just flick the ball over the goalkeeper, so thank you Chris for the job today.

“I really hope that he does it again because the talent is there.”

Espirito Santo, whose first game in charge on Saturday ended in a 3-2 home defeat by Bournemouth, might have feared the worst when the Magpies took an early lead courtesy of Alexander Isak’s 23rd-minute penalty.

However, they were pegged back in stoppage time after Anthony Elanga crossed for Wood to level from close range, and that proved only the prelude to a disastrous afternoon for the hosts.

Elanga, who tormented full-back Dan Burn throughout, and Morgan Gibbs-White repeatedly split an unusually porous home rearguard, and Wood took full advantage with two more expert finishes after the break to hand his new boss a first win and extend his managerial record against the Magpies to eight games without defeat.

Espirito Santo said: “It feels very good and the boys are very happy. But it was hard and we have to congratulate them because they did fantastic work. I think we played well and it was a well-deserved win.”

Opposite number Eddie Howe, whose side have now lost six of their last seven games in all competitions and slipped out of the Champions League and perhaps even the race for a top-four finish, was reflective after another difficult afternoon.

Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe (right) has seen his side lose six of its last seven games in all competitions
Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe (right) has seen his side lose six of its last seven games in all competitions (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Howe said: “We weren’t quite at our best today and in the Premier League when you’re not, you get punished.

“Whenever you lose games, that’s an uncomfortable feeling for you; whenever your team is not at its peak, it’s an uncomfortable feeling.

“But we have to remain reflective and we have to make the right decisions for the team in the next few days to make sure we’re ready for our next game.

“I don’t think physically we’re at our best. I think that’s obvious and I think I would be lying if I said otherwise.”