A Peter Lovenkrands inspired Newcastle United made it through to the next round of the FA Cup with a more than convincing 3-0 victory over Plymouth Argyle.
Danish striker Lovenkrands was the hero by scoring all three goals, making it a hat-trick of Newcastle players to score three goals in a game this season. To make it even better it was a perfect hat-trick, with goals coming with his left and right foot and one with his head. It certainly gives Chris Hughton some food for thought as he continues his search for a new striker to add to his forward line. A strong looking Newcastle line-up dominated most of the game in front of a sparse crowd of 15,805. The only real non-first teamers who did feature were goalkeeper Tim Krul and winger Fabrice Pancrate, who again produced a disappointing display. After some poor displays of late it will be a relief for both the players and the fans to produce a good showing after a week and a half’s break. Lovenkrands was assisted in his Man of the Match performance by the excellent Jonas Gutierrez who set up two of his goals.
The Plymouth defence had no answer to the Argentinian’s surging runs down the left flank. Gutierrez also showed his guile with a defence splitting pass creating the opening goal. Despite Lovenkrands’ display and a decent showing by his strike partner Andy Carroll, manager Hughton still seems determined to sign a new striker. Speaking after the game Hughton said: “It hasn’t changed my thinking. I’ve always been very aware of what Peter can do. I’ve always said that he gives us something different up front compared to Andy, Shola or Nile. He’s a different type of striker, and that was the reason we brought him in. He prefers to play up front. When I brought him in, I knew he was a player who could play in one of three positions, either up front or on either flank. He’s done that on numerous occasions elsewhere, and also did it here last season. But up front is undoubtedly the position he prefers.” Hughton has also been strongly linked with a move for Bolton Wanderers’ defender Danny Shittu. The central defender is well down the pecking order at the Reebok Stadium and would be available at a fairly low price compared to other options.
The win over Plymouth sets up a fourth round tie against fellow Championship top dogs West Brom. However, the two clubs meet in action on Monday in a league game of much greater importance. The game is set to be the most important played in the Championship so far this season with both sides desperate for the win. Newcastle are currently six points ahead of West Brom, with both teams having played the same number of games. But you don’t have to be a mathematician to work out the implications of a Newcastle win or loss. A win would be a huge psychological blow with the season now past the halfway mark. Both sides have favoured different styles this season as Newcastle have taken a more defensive approach looking to nick games by the odd goal. In contrast West Brom play a more open, expansive passing game that has seem them emerge as the top scorers in the league with just over two goals every game. Their Achilles’ heel could be the defence, which does not appear as strong as the Magpies. When the two sides met on the opening day of the season they drew 1-1 and since then have largely lived up to their billing of promotion favourites. Of course both sides will be aware of the ever increasing threat of Nottingham Forest.
Defender Steven Taylor believes that confidence in the team will be sky high, following their comfortable win over Plymouth. Taylor had one of the easiest games of his career against sporadic Plymouth attacks. He said: “It was a pretty comfortable game for us, which was nice, because West Brom on Monday night’s going to be a pretty difficult game for us. It’s going to be interesting. We’ve just to concentrate on playing like we did. The confidence is there – I’m glad we got the comfortable win and the performance. We can build on that on Monday.”