Saturday’s narrow win over Huddersfield brought sweet relief for Newcastle, as it moved them seven points clear of the relegation zone, but it also provided the Toon Army with their first glimpse of January arrival Islam Slimani.
The Algerian had arrived on loan from Leicester City over two months ago, but injuries and international duty had delayed his debut. At the time of his arrival, the Magpies had won just two of their previous 16 games, with the profligate Joselu having just spurned a costly penalty against Burnley.
They wastefulness in front of goal saw them kept above the dropzone by just a single point, and with crowd favourite Aleksandr Mitrovic shuffled through the exit door, the club’s survival hopes were seemingly being chucked in Slimani’s basket.
As it happens, the Magpies have lost just one game since, winning three and drawing two – lessening the Algerian’s burden once fit.
His 20-minute cameo against Huddersfield saw some positive hold-up play and neat touches – the former Sporting Lisbon hotshot won’t be the man that fires the Magpies to safety, but the Geordies will still be hoping he can show enough in the remaining six games to warrant a permanent move.
Once a £30 million player – a fee that would cause Mike Ashley night terrors – Slimani is a big, strong centre-forward who knows where the back of the net is – tailor-made to lead the line for the St. James’ Park outfit.
He might have just four weeks left to earn himself a contract, with a trip to his parent club once again relegating him to a spectator’s role, but let’s hope he seizes his chance.