Club Focus – Newcastle – Last gasp Nolan sends Magpies top

Newcastle brought an end to their winless run against Doncaster Rovers with a performance that was less than convincing. In a game lacking quality but high on drama a late goal from the free-scoring Kevin Nolan saw 10-men Newcastle just scrape home. The win also sees Newcastle return to the top of the table as West Brom again failed to secure all three points. A win was a must against opponents who have struggled on their travels all season and are one of the Championship’s great underdogs. But for long spells of the game it was the former non-league side who out-passed the former Premier League side. It was a moment of quality from Nolan, with a fine shot from outside the area, which was the difference between the two teams.

Newcastle again looked nervy in defence as youngster Tamas Kadar was brought in in central defence in place of the injured Danny Simpson. This meant yet another new central defensive pairing had to be forged between Kadar and Zurab Khizanishvilli. Both players looked uncomfortable all game with the on-loan Khizanishvilli failing to see out the full game as he was sent-off on 85 minutes. The Georgian’s red card for violent conduct looked quite harsh as a number of players became embroiled in an off-the-ball melee. A three match ban is the last thing Newcastle need with their injury problems in defence. After the game Chris Hughton said they may consider appealing against the red card after they have reviewed video footage of the incident.

A healthy crowd of 43,949 were at times left frustrated by the team’s struggles on the pitch. As well as aiming their angst at club owner Mike Ashley, on-loan striker Marlon Harewood also became a target for the boo boys. When the player was withdrawn on the hour mark he left the pitch to a chorus of boos. After scoring in only his second appearance against QPR, Harewood’s performances have gone downhill quickly. For a player who has spent so long in the top flight, he has a poor first touch and his lack of game time is very evident. If he wants to earn a move to St James’ Park he will need to start making an impact in games. Teenage striker Nile Ranger was much livelier in his 30 minute cameo. Fellow forward Andy Carroll enjoyed a much better game, making amends for a bad miss with a top drawer finish to get Newcastle back into the game.

The win should ease some of the concerns about giving Hughton the manager’s job on a full-time basis. His appointment should be confirmed some time this week although with Newcastle United nothing can be certain. Hughton spoke after the game about his pride in getting the job. He said: “I’m massively proud. I spent a long time at Spurs which is a great club and this is a great football club. This club gets under your skin massively. I’ve had great responses from everybody from day one, even in difficult periods.”

Meanwhile, another contender for the managerial job has gone public on his desire for the position. Alan Shearer, whose name was chanted by the fans on Saturday told The Sunday Mirror: “I would still like to be the manager of Newcastle again one day. If the situation came around and everything was right and in place then without a doubt I would love to give it another go. But that’s not up to me. It’s not just a job at Newcastle, though, because if the right post came along somewhere else I would definitely look at it too. I would love to go back but let’s make this clear, I’m not connected to any bids. And nobody has said to me, ‘If I get in and buy the football club I want you to be the manager’.” Shearer still retains the support of the fans but his only hope would be for a takeover to go through. Newcastle supporters would be very interested in Shearer’s progress if he was to manage another club. How low down the Football League Shearer will go to gain some much needed experience remains to be seen.

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