Club Focus – Newcastle – Toon hold champions Chelsea to a draw

An under-strength Newcastle side claimed a share of the spoils as they held Chelsea to a draw at St James’ Park. An early Andy Carroll goal ensured that the Magpies bounced back quickly from their heavy defeat to Bolton in the previous weekend. Although they were unable to hold on to their lead under heavy Chelsea pressure it was certainly a case of a point gained rather than two lost. Due to heavy snow in Tyneside over the weekend the game was in doubt on Sunday morning. However the efforts of the ground staff were rewarded with a good result against an out of sorts Chelsea side.

Chris Hughton was forced into whole sale changes to his usual starting XI thanks to a combination of injury and suspension. Captain Kevin Nolan was a surprise exclusion due to an injury while regulars Joey Barton, Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini were all out suspended. The enforced changes had a positive effect on the team, possibly bringing some freshness to an outfit who have appeared slightly jaded of late. Sol Campbell and Steven Taylor forged an immediate understanding at the heart of Newcastle defence. On the right flank Wayne Routledge enjoyed arguably his best display of the season as he looked a threat against one of the world’s best left-backs. Chris Hughton was also pleased with his team’s improved discipline on the back of a heated game at Bolton.

Former Arsenal and Tottenham defender Sol Campbell showed the value of his immense big game experience as he stepped into the fray for his first league start of the season. The 36 year old hardly put a foot wrong all game and provided a strong aerial presence at both ends of the pitch. It was a testament to Campbell’s performance that Chelsea’s Didier Drogba had few chances to make a mark on the game. For much of the game Newcastle were forced to defend deep as they struggled to make much of an impression in the final third of the pitch. Alongside the returning Steven Taylor he was able to keep a succession of Chelsea attacks at bay, even with four attackers on the pitch for the last 10 minutes.

Andy Carroll matched his number of goals for the season to his shirt number by scoring his ninth of the campaign. In a similar manner to the way he scored last weekend he showed a poacher’s instinct by getting in behind the defenders to capitalise on an error. In a rare interview leading up to the game with Chelsea the recently capped Carroll has backed himself to form a strong international partnership with Wayne Rooney. He said: “Wayne is a great player so to have people talking about me and him playing up front for England means a lot. I definitely think we could form a decent partnership. The way we both play I reckon we’d go well together.”

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