Club Focus – Newcastle – Comeback kings

Newcastle will have returned from their long trip to Bristol pleased to have come back with a share of the spoils despite trailing 2-0 at half time. After some tough words by Chris Hughton during the interval the Magpies dominated the second 45 minutes and there will be some who feel they should have come away with all three points at the final whistle. West Brom and Nottingham Forest both won their mid-afternoon games piling the pressure on Newcastle to keep the status-quo at the top.

Managerless Bristol City looked fired up for the game and stretched Newcastle’s backline with their two quick strikers. However eventually they ran out of steam and the Magpies’ extra class was apparent in the second half. Goals from Jonas Gutierrez and man-of-the-moment Andy Carroll ensured that the Toon stretched their unbeaten run to eight matches. Their gap to West Brom may now be down to only two points but they still hold a significant advantage over third placed Forest.

One of the signs of a top team is coming back from adversity and that is true for this game and for the season as a whole. Newcastle now have the determination to be able to pull back from a losing position when not playing at their best. Manager Chris Hughton believes that the team’s determination is one of their biggest assets. He said: “It’s been a characteristic of the team all season. If you look at our first goal, it was a bit fortuitous but you have to be in the right place at the right time. Andy Carroll scored the second one. He’s a player who is confident and in good goalscoring mood. If I look at the two halves then I thought we dominated the second half. I thought they were better than us in the first half, but not by much. They scored from a free kick and the second goal was absolutely wonderful. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say that. We were always in the game and we had chances ourselves.”

With in-form hit man Peter Lovenkrands absent through injury, January signing Leon Best was given an opportunity to show his ability. Unfortunately against Bristol City he never really seized his chance, although he was denied a late winning goal by a fine save by the opposition’s goalkeeper. Best is yet to open his account for the Magpies despite making 10 appearances in a black and white shirt, with over half of his appearances coming from the substitutes’ bench. Best is believed to have joined Newcastle from Coventry for a fee of around £2 million although it is yet to be confirmed exactly how much the final fee was. Perhaps the significant transfer fee or the expectation of playing in front of lots of fans has affected his confidence. Hughton said of the player: “He needs a goal. His contribution has been good but like all strikers he needs that goal to lift his confidence.” The same can’t be said of his partner Andy Carroll who is enjoying one of his best spells in a Newcastle shirt. He is playing full of confidence and is making a good case for wearing the number nine shirt next season. That is despite having the worry of an upcoming court case for assault hanging over him.

Newcastle make a quick return to action with another away game on Tuesday night at Doncaster Rovers. Like the Bristol City game it has the potential to be a tricky game and Newcastle do appear to be less confident away from their fortress of St James’ Park. Doncaster have been enjoying another successful season in the Championship and currently sit 8th in the table. That is a good achievement given their resources compared to many of the other teams in the league. They still have an outside chance of making the play-offs so Sean O’Driscoll’s men have everything to play for. The Magpies head into the game with a shortage of centre backs with Fitz Hall the latest player to join Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson on the sidelines. Hall suffered a hamstring injury against Bristol City but manager Hughton has ruled out bringing in yet another defender on loan. Rookie defender Tamas Kadar will partner Coloccini after a solid showing as Hall’s replacement at the weekend. In other team news Joey Barton has been included in the squad to face the Rovers.

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