Club Focus – Newcastle – Hughton striving for Championship crown

Magpies cruise to yet another home win

With promotion secured and any pressure around the club lifted Newcastle are looking to finish their season in style. Saturday’s 4-1 win over Blackpool saw Newcastle’s fans treated to yet another goal-fest at St James’ Park. Goals from Jonas Gutierrez, Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and Wayne Routledge saw the Magpies edge ever nearer to securing the Championship crown. The leaders now hold a six point over West Brom but if they win their game in hand with Reading on Tuesday night they can extend their lead even further.

Saturday’s game with promotion chasing Blackpool was a continuation of the club’s promotion party with 47,010 fans given another polished display from the home side. With their place in next season’s Premier League secure Newcastle’s players appear to be playing with any shackles released. Wide boys Jonas Gutierrez and Wayne Routledge attacked the opposition’s full backs with relish as the gulf between the two sides soon became apparent. At times like Saturday’s game with Blackpool Newcastle’s Argentinean winger appears too good for this league. He had the away team’s Seamus Coleman, on loan from Everton, in trouble all game with his pace and trickery. Gutierrez’s opening goal saw him get in the penalty area with a deft piece of skill with a bit of luck seeing his shot beat the goalkeeper. The Spiderman mask was again unleashed much to the delight of the home fans. It will be interesting from a Newcastle perspective to see how Gutierrez fares at this summer’s World Cup with Argentina, for whom he often featured in Maradona’s starting XI. If he has a good World Cup then there could be increased interest across Europe in the winger who has secured a place in the Newcastle’s fans’ hearts this season.

Manager Chris Hughton still has targets for his side in mind even with four games of the season left to play. The number one priority is to secure the league title which can be all but mathematically secured with a win on Tuesday night. Speaking after the game to the local press Hughton said:, “The priorities are first to secure promotion, then to win the league and there’ll be lots of other targets that if we’re able to get to will be wonderful to look back on. But it’s all in the direction of winning this league. The next target is to win the league. If we’re able to do that sooner rather than later then fine, but the players know they have to keep this focus through until the end of the season. What we do know is that everybody will be looking to see our body language and asking how are we? Are we a team that’s accepting we’ve gone up now and there’s nothing else to play for? The targets we’ve set ourselves are to win this division and more so the fact we’ve been on top most of the season and it would be a real disappointment if we weren’t to go on and win it.” Other notable targets that Hughton will be looking to achieve are to reach the 100 point mark to confirm their supremacy and to go through the entire season unbeaten at home. With only one game at home left this season there is a great chance of that happening and tickets for that game with Ipswich are selling out fast.

Tuesday night sees Newcastle travel down to Reading to fulfil a fixture that was due to be played way back in January. The two sides have struggled to find a date for the match due to the hectic nature of the Championship and the Royal’s cup run. A win over in-form Reading will see Newcastle go nine points clear of West Brom with only three games to go. Reading have enjoyed a good run of results under manager Brian McDermott since he took charge of the club in December, originally on a caretaker basis. The club’s undoubted highlight of the season was a win over Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup. Newcastle’s biggest problem ahead of the game is at left back with Jose Enrique (illness) and Tamas Kadar (hamstring) both doubtful. Right back Danny Simpson may have to switch flank to fill in for the injured duo. Hughton may also re-call either Alan Smith or Nicky Butt to stiffen up the midfield away from home.

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