Newcastle United look certain to be playing Premier League football next season following their 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest. The result puts the Magpies a massive 13 points clear of third place Forest with only seven games left in the season.
They can mathematically ensure promotion as early as this Saturday if they win away at bottom of the table Peterborough United and Forest lose to Bristol City. It looks like it could be an Easter weekend to remember on Tyneside and even if they fail to secure promotion on Saturday they will get another opportunity on Bank Holiday Monday against Sheffield United. The next aim will of course be to secure the Championship title to add to their trophy cabinet that has been so bare of late. They currently hold a four point gap over in-form West Brom with the added bonus of a game in hand.
Goals from Shola Ameobi and Jose Enrique gave Newcastle all three points in what was a close encounter with Forest, who now look set for the consolation of the play-offs. At times Newcastle laboured to their victory and it was not until Ameobi’s quality finish on 71 minutes that they were able to turn the screw. For the final 20 minutes Newcastle were able to dominate the game but previous to then Forest showed why they have been one of the top sides this season. Forest were able to make their extra man count in midfield and exerted some control for periods of the game. At the back Newcastle largely looked solid with the returning Mike Williamson quick to get back up to speed.
If Ameobi’s clever turn and finish was the curtain opener then Jose Enrique’s goal was the party piece. Perhaps with the exception of Jonas Gutierrez’s goal against Barnsley there will not have been a more popular goal at St James’ Park all season. Remarkably it was not only Enrique’s first ever goal for the club it was the first goal of his career. The 24 year old showed good composure to finish coolly past the Forest ‘keeper but seemed unsure what to do once he scored. He was mobbed by nearly all of his teammates who showed their appreciation of the popular figure. The former Spain Under-21 international has left many of the pundits purring with his performances this season and has arguably been the outstanding player in the Championship this season. Defensively he has been solid and strong against much bigger opponents and going forward he has formed a formidable partnership with his good friend Gutierrez. After a slow start to his Newcastle career he now appears to be £6 million well spent by former manager Sam Allardyce.
The furore over the alleged training ground punch-up between Andy Carroll and Steven Taylor refuses to go away with a number of stories emanating in the press over the two players’ futures. Some newspapers have reported that centre half Taylor could be set to leave the club in the summer with a number of Premier League clubs believed to be interested in taking the player off Newcastle’s hands. The reports have said that Taylor feels badly betrayed by the club for seemingly backing Carroll over him despite being hospitalised for several days with a broken jaw. Carroll was photographed at the weekend at a rap concert with both of his hands in bandages. There has been some debate over whether the two players can play together again for the first team. But there have been plenty of precedents in the past of team mates squaring up in training and then playing together just days later. Also with the two players respective positions they are unlikely to be in the same area of the pitch too often. It would not be the same problem as say John Terry and Wayne Bridge playing alongside each other for England in defence. Carroll is rumoured in the press to be part of the main dressing room clique with Kevin Nolan, who shares the same agent as Carroll, the ringleader. Quite what Taylor did wrong to upset Carroll we will probably never know but he does not have a reputation as a troublemaker off the field, unlike his fellow Geordie Carroll. It would surely be a mistake for Hughton to sell one of the country’s most promising young defenders over a striker who is yet to prove himself at the highest level; despite The News of the World claiming that Carroll was in Fabio Capello’s thoughts for his World Cup squad.