Newcastle’s troubles continued to deepen as Chris Wood scored a hat-trick against his former club to help Nottingham Forest to a 3-1 win at St James’ Park.

December may have started with a victory over Manchester United but it’s turned into a miserable month for Eddie Howe’s side, who have now won one of their last seven games and been eliminated from the Champions League and Carabao Cup in a matter of weeks.

It all started so well for the hosts on Boxing Day, with Alexander Isak’s penalty giving them the lead against a Forest side that began the game slowly in Nuno Espirito Santo’s second match in charge.

But Wood led the fightback against the club he left in January, equalising in first-half stoppage time before producing two brilliantly composed finishes to complete his hat-trick.

Newcastle never looked like producing a comeback of their own and now face the daunting prospect of starting 2024 with fixtures against Liverpool, Sunderland, Manchester City and Aston Villa.

How Wood returned to haunt Magpies

Wood scored once at St James’ Park during his 12 months as a Newcastle player but hit three in 14 minutes on his return in a Forest shirt.

He was one of just five players retained from the defeat to Bournemouth in Nuno’s first game in charge and those changes seemed to contribute to a disjointed first 30 minutes from the visitors.

Team news

  • Newcastle made two changes from the defeat to Luton, with Sven Botman and Alexander Isak replacing Jamaal Lascelles and Callum Wilson.
  • Nottingham Forest made six alterations after losing to Bournemouth, with Gonzalo Montiel, Moussa Niakhate, Ola Aina, Danilo, Ibrahim Sangare and Callum Hudson-Odoi replacing Neco Williams, Willy Boly, Harry Toffolo, Ryan Yates, Orel Mangala and Divock Origi.

After Morgan Gibbs-White failed to punish Lewis Miley for conceding possession in his own penalty area, Forest found themselves dominated by Newcastle and were behind after 23 minutes when Isak converted the penalty he won thanks to Ola Aina’s clumsy tackle.

But the hosts were vulnerable to the pace of Anthony Elanga and Callum Hudson-Odoi and found themselves increasingly exposed on the counter-attack.

One such foray forward should have led to the opener but Elanga decided to shoot from a tight angle instead of setting up Wood for a tap-in, with the grateful Marin Dubravka making the save.

But Elanga would not make the same mistake twice and claimed the assist for Wood’s first goal after squaring from the byline following Morgan Gibbs-White’s powerful run.

Forest started the second half where they ended the first, with Gibbs-White and Elanga missing presentable chances before Wood showed them how it was done, dinking a classy finish over Dubravka in the 53rd minute.

Newcastle’s woeful offside trap then presented the New Zealand international with the freedom of St James’ Park as he secured his hat-trick, fooling Dubravka before sliding the ball into the empty net.

Moussa Niakhate’s goal-line block with his shoulder preserved Forest’s two-goal advantage – despite Newcastle’s claims for handball – while Bruno Guimaraes and Callum Wilson also had penalty claims correctly turned down.

Newcastle now find themselves seven points outside the top four and 11 points off Premier League leaders Arsenal. Their hopes of returning to the Champions League – and competing for the FA Cup – may hinge on their next four matches.

What’s next?

Newcastle’s next game is at Liverpool on New Year’s Day, live on Monday Night Football; kick-off 8pm.

Monday 1st January 6:30pm

Kick off 8:00pm

The Magpies then travel to rivals Sunderland in the FA Cup third round on Saturday January 6; kick-off 12.45pm.

Nottingham Forest are next in action on Saturday when they host Manchester United, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 5.30pm.

Saturday 30th December 5:00pm

Kick off 5:30pm

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side then welcome Blackpool to the City Ground in the FA Cup third round on Sunday January 7; kick-off 2pm.

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