Championship leaders Newcastle would have been happy to leave the Riverside with a point following a late goal from Andy Carroll. The honours were even in the Tyne-Tees derby match as the two sides kept up their recent tradition of drawing against one another. It seems unlikely that Newcastle and Middlesbrough will be playing against each other next season unless a dramatic turnaround in fortunes takes place, but on Saturday it was a fired up Boro’ who looked the better side for much of the game. However, like most good teams, Newcastle were able to come away with a share of the spoils without being at their best.
Perhaps one of the reasons Newcastle struggled in the match was they were forced to put out a patched-up back-four. Jose Enrique was not risked at left-back and had to settle for a place on the bench. More worryingly for the Magpies, centre-half Mike Williamson picked up a freak hand injury while training at home, ruling him out for a month. Tamas Kadar and QPR loanee Fitz Hall were brought in for rare starts meaning there was a lack of cohesion to the away team’s backline. This was made even worse when Fabricio Coloccini was substituted midway through the second half with a dead leg. This could prompt manager Chris Hughton into the emergency loan market for another centre half to cover for Williamson and Steven Taylor. Hughton said: “I’ve got to think about what we’ve got, and whether we can cope with what we’ve got. Probably more importantly I’ve got to assess Colo [Coloccini] and how he’s going to be.” If Hughton does move for yet another central defender then he may go for one of Bolton Wanderers pair Andy O’Brien or Danny Shittu.
At the other end of the pitch Newcastle have no such worries with strikers Peter Lovenkrands and Andy Carroll both on target. The pair have now established themselves as Hughton’s first choice duo and they make for an ideal combination. Carroll provides the muscle and aerial threat while the little Dane makes uses his pace and movement to get behind opposition defences. Lovenkrands’ classy goal against Boro made it in 11 goals in his last 10 matches and surprisingly his first goal of the season away from St James’ Park. Lovenkrands could be making a late bid for a place in the Denmark World Cup squad despite playing little part in the qualification campaign. His strike partner may also be eyeing up playing international football, but not with the country of his birth. Geordie lad Carroll has featured prominently in Stuart Pearce’s England Under-21 squads but he may turn his back on England to play for Scotland. He qualifies for the Scots through a Scottish grandmother and is believed to have been approached to change his allegiance. Carroll said: “I’ve heard I am wanted by Scotland. I’m obviously doing well with the England Under-21s and I’ll see what’s happening there, but I’d be lying if I said the Scotland thing wasn’t in the back of my mind. It’s nice to know I’m wanted. But England is where I’m from, and that’s who I want to play for really.”
Newcastle midfielder Kevin Nolan was named the Championship Player of the Year at the Football League awards on Sunday night. Nolan has been an influential figure for the Magpies this season with his 13 goals making him the club’s leading scoring. He was particularly influential in the first half of the season with a hat-trick at Ipswich the real high point. His performances of late have not been at the same level but he remains one of the first names on the team sheet. After receiving the award the Scouser paid tribute to his fellow players and manager. He said: “I am delighted to pick this up and I want to thank my team-mates, Chris Hughton, all of his backroom staff and the fans and, of course, my family. It is going to be nice to take this home and see my daughter run around with it.” He added: “Our main aim is to get promotion and win the title and if we can do that I’ll be a very happy man to have given it to Chris Hughton because he deserves it.”
Newcastle return to action with a mid-week game against strugglers Scunthorpe at St James’ Park. The Iron dropped into the relegation zone at the weekend and have the worst defensive record in the division. Newcastle may be looking for revenge after one of the few low-lights of the season when they lost 2-1 at Scunthorpe in October.