Club Focus – Newcastle United – Magpies look to build on League Cup success with win over Stoke

Newcastle produced another impressive away day performance as they overcame league leaders Chelsea in a thrilling game of football at Stamford Bridge. A late goal from Shola Ameobi saw the Magpies through to the fourth round of the League Cup. Despite a wretched record against Chelsea both at Stamford Bridge and in recent League Cup competitions Chris Hughton’s men made some history of their own. It is the first time they have won at Chelsea’s home in 24 years and also their first win over the West London side in the cup after four successive loses. With a number of the bookmakers’ favourites dumped out of the competition Newcastle fans may be eyeing up some silverware after this fine performance.

The 4-3 victory over the previously unbeaten Chelsea helped to highlight the strength and depth that Chris Hughton now has at his disposal. He was able to make 10 changes from the team that performed so well against Everton with defender Fabricio Coloccini the only man to start both games. All eleven who started the game will have given Hughton something to think about as they all made their cases for regular first team action. Among the starting XI were three teenagers who did not look out of place against a Chelsea team featuring six international players. At left back Shane Ferguson showed lots of attacking intent, Haris Vuckic was competent in central midfield while Nile Ranger made up for a couple of mistakes with a well taken goal. Another encouraging aspect will have been Sol Campbell completing a steady 90 minutes on his Newcastle debut.

Perhaps the one player to shine out other all the others was Shola Ameobi who capped a fine performance with a bullet header in the 90th minute. It was one of the rare occasions when the Geordie cult hero was just about unplayable. He gave the Chelsea central defenders a torrid night with his power and work rate unsettling his markers. If Ameobi could produce displays such as these more often he would be a regular starter at Premier League level. At the very least this display will show Andy Carroll that there is some competition behind him in the striking department. Hughton played tribute to the 28 year old despite detractors saying he is not good enough to play at the highest level. He said: “That’s why he’s here, Shola showed why he’s still at this football club. He’s had a period at the club where injuries have hindered his progress. That was the case last season. But when Shola’s in this form, he’s a top, top player.”

Chelsea will always be special club for Ameobi who made his first team debut against them 10 years ago this very month. He also scored one of his most memorable career goals against the Blues at St James’ Park back in 2004. Although his career has probably had more lows than highs he is one of the few players remaining at the club who played in Sir Bobby Robson’s successful side who twice finished in the top four. He enjoyed something of a renaissance in the Championship last term although he spent large parts of the season on the treatment table. A delighted Ameobi told the Newcastle Chronicle: “It was a fabulous result for the team and for me personally to get two goals, including the late winner, which made it a very special night .Getting drawn away to Chelsea was about as tough a draw as you could get. But the spirit we have here these days showed on the night and it was sensational – I thought we fully deserved the victory.”

Going into Newcastle’s next game Hughton faces something of a selection headache – but it is the sort of problem most managers will not complain about. He effectively has two different teams to choose between who have both come off excellent results. It would be harsh to drop many players who featured in the Everton game but is the sort of dilemma top managers often face. Next up are Stoke City who visit St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon. Stoke sit just above the relegation zone going into the game but they are also only three points behind Newcastle. The game is likely to be a bruising encounter with the success of opposing target men Andy Carroll and Kenwyne Jones probably being an important factor to decide who wins the game.

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