Club Focus – Newcastle – Carroll back from zero to hero

In a week where Andy Carroll’s latest off-the-field antics were the talk of Tyneside it was perhaps fitting that he should emerge as the match winner against Doncaster Rovers. A Carroll strike in the second half gave Newcastle a 1-0 victory and helped to allay fears that his spat with Steven Taylor would have a negative effect on the dressing room. In a season that has been all about togetherness and team spirit it was disappointing from a Newcastle perspective to see two of their key players allegedly trade blows at the training ground. For much of the season Newcastle have gone about their business quietly and effectively without making any harmful headlines, but this incident is a reminder of the problems that have disrupted the club in the not too recent past.

The bust-up between the two local lads is believed to have happened at the training ground on Sunday following a routine warm-down after the previous day’s game. Taylor has been on the comeback trail after a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a knee injury, but he is unlikely to play again this season due to the broken jaw he suffered in the altercation. Rumours have been flying across the city of Newcastle over why the two players came to blows but it is unlikely the reasons for the clash will be revealed. Club officials and manager Chris Hughton have refused to comment on the story as they look to keep all the details in-house. The club are likely to hold an internal investigation into the alleged incident but there will be no police involvement. Carroll has been no stranger to controversy during his short career with the Magpies – he is currently on bail from an assault charge. Carroll has become an increasingly important figure as the season has gone on but there may now be doubts over where his future with the club lies. Manager Hughton faces the toughest challenge of his managerial career so far in how he deals with the incident.

The match itself will make little headlines as Newcastle yet again ground out a victory when not being at their fluent best. There was serious debate over whether Carroll would involved in the game but given the paucity of Hughton’s other striking options at the moment he had little choice but to involve him. Carroll ensured he went some way to getting the fans back on side by scoring with a cool finish and then throwing his shirt to the away fans after the final whistle. Doncaster did create some problems for Newcastle, but they failed to take their chances, either by poor finishing or some very good saves by Steve Harper. Chris Hughton made no comment on the Taylor/Carroll bust-up in his press conference after the game. Instead he focused on another important win in the club’s promotion race. He said: “It’s very much business as usual for us. The focus is always on trying to win games. And sometimes it probably sounds boring, but it’s what we stress to the players. It was a big win at Doncaster. At this stage of the season they are all big games, as will be the next game and then the one after that.”

Newcastle’s next game is especially important as it provides the opportunity to just about guarantee Premier League football next season. Take all three points against third placed Nottingham Forest on Monday night and Newcastle should have no worries about securing promotion. They currently hold a ten point gap on Forest with a game in hand on them so even a rare home defeat would not be a complete disaster. When the two sides met earlier on in the season back in October Forest grabbed a deserved 1-0 win. That was during the East Midland club’s purple patch between October and January where they went undefeated in the league. At that time they looked like being Newcastle’s biggest challenger along with West Brom to automatic promotion. Since the turn of the year results have not been as impressive while Newcastle and West Brom’s extra class has made a difference. The Magpies could be boosted by the return of three players for Monday night’s game. Alan Smith, Peter Lovenkrands and Shola Ameobi could all be available, while Jose Enrique and Joey Barton will also continue their comebacks from injury.

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