Newcastle suffered their second defeat of the week as they extended their winless run to a worrying four games. A 2-1 reverse away to Scunthorpe was slightly unfair on the Magpies as they probably just shaded the game, especially in terms of chances created. However, some major lapses in defence and some great goalkeeping from Scunny ‘keeper Joe Murphy meant Newcastle went away pointless. On paper the two clubs are poles apart with Newcastle boasting Argentinian and England internationals in their ranks and a wage bill that must dwarf Scunthorpe’s many times over. But at Scunthorpe’s 9,000 capacity Glanford Park ground they suffered an embarrassing defeat. With a similar loss at Blackpool earlier in the season the former Premier League big-boys appear to have a problem raising their game against supposedly lesser teams.
A major concern for Newcastle at the moment is their defence, which was so impressive earlier on in the season. The loss of Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini cannot be underestimated and with no real cover at centre-back they have been forced to make do with two loanees in a crucial position. After impressing in his first game at full-back, Blackburn defender Zurab Khizanishvilli has struggled in the centre. He was crucially at fault for the first goal as he allowed a long ball to drop behind him and then being out-muscled too easily. There was similar poor defending all round to allow the Irons in for a second goal. Although Steven Taylor remains sidelined with a troublesome hamstring injury, Coloccini should be back to face Doncaster Rovers at the weekend. Although he has been much derided since arriving on Tyneside last season, the Argentinian should strengthen a struggling back four. The only other real alternative in defence is young Hungarian Tamas Kadar but Chris Hughton would appear to feel he is too inexperienced to start just yet.
Newcastle also appear to have problems up the other end of the pitch with Kevin Nolan’s goal against Scunthorpe bringing an end to a run of 265 minutes without scoring. Teams who can’t score goals and can’t defend are always going to struggle and that is Newcastle’s problem at the moment. Nolan is the current top scorer in the team with six goals this season. He has benefited from a more advanced role this season and should get well into double figures this campaign. But with the loss of Shola Ameobi the team lack a natural goalscorer up front. Andy Carroll has scored twice this season and has often led the line as a lone striker; but he is still developing his game and it is expecting a lot for his goals to fire Newcastle to promotion. New signings Marlon Harewood and Peter Lovenkrands have yet to really find their scoring boots. A lack of creativity in midfield is another worry with Jonas Gutierrez often looking the only player capable of producing a moment of magic, if he gets his final ball right.
Another defeat is unlikely to harm Hughton’s chances of getting the manager’s job on a permanent basis. The chances are that he will be appointed as manager after this weekend’s game. Speaking after the Scunthorpe game he said: “As far as I know, nothing is different and I am still very confident that the situation has not changed. My thoughts at the moment are all about why we didn’t get the result we should have got. It makes this weekend a bigger game of course, and there’s a pressure now that we’re putting on ourselves.” The appointment of Hughton probably means that there is little or no chance of a takeover taking place this season. One plus point is some much needed stability at the club. Mike Ashley suffered another financial blow this week when it was announced that Newcastle would have to pay all of Kevin Keegan’s costs in his successful claim against the club.
The unpredictability of the Championship has really shone through in the last couple of games but as a result, Newcastle still remain second in the table. However despite a surprising West Brom loss, all eight teams below them won in midweek. This has really tightened everything up in the league. The Magpies will enjoy home comforts when they play 18th placed Doncaster at the weekend. It represents a good opportunity to get another win on the board after a poor run of form. The loss of Alan Smith through suspension will be a major blow to the Newcastle engine room.
Newcastle United Club Focus
Pre-season woe – July 29
Fans say goodbye to a hero – August 5
Bridge over troubled water? – August 12
Local boy steps up – August 18
Home-grown strike partnership takes effect – August 21
Geordie resurgence gains momentum – August 25
Takeover still talk of the Toon – August 28
St James’ Park Ranger keeps Magpies firing – September 1
Ex-Magpie returns just as window shuts – September 4
Want-away striker leaves already thin squad – September 8
Former striker aims to shoot down Magpies – September 11
Newcastle return to Championship summit – September 15
Magpies upset on trip to the seaside – September 18
Magpies return to winning ways – September 22
Early cup exit shows where priorities are this season – September 25
Emphatic win a fitting tribute to Sir Bobby – September 29
Harewood announces arrival – October 2
Keegan victorious in legal battle – October 6
Quiet-ish times on Tyneside – October 16
Decisions required behind the scenes – October 20
Magpies need to halt winless win – October 23