Club Focus – Newcastle United – St James’ Saturday home jinx continues as injuries hit

Newcastle United’s four game unbeaten run came to an abrupt end at the weekend when they lost at home to Everton. In a tight encounter between two evenly matched teams Everton’s extra quality in certain areas of the pitch made the difference.

Worryingly for the Magpies the defeat extended a strange sequence of results in which they have failed to win at home in the top flight in a 3pm kick-off. The last time they achieved that feat was way back in August 2008. It is difficult to say whether this statistic is starting to become a psychological burden for some of the players but as games go by it will start to get mentioned more frequently.

If Newcastle are looking for excuses for their 2-1 defeat then injury problems would be some way up that list. Due to extensive fitness concerns Alan Pardew was forced to play a number of his players out of position. With both Stephen Ireland and Joey Barton ruled out because of injury, Danny Simpson was pushed forward into the right wing spot. Taking his place at right-back was Steven Taylor, normally a central defender. The current Newcastle squad is being stretched to the limit, not helped by a lack of new faces in the January transfer window. As if to make matters worse highly-rated left-back Jose Enrique was taken off just before half-time due to injury. However with the Magpies not back in action until March 19 Pardew has almost a fortnight to get some of his injured players back.

At this stage of the season a defeat for over half the teams in the league has them looking nervously over their shoulder. Despite lying ninth in the table the gap between Newcastle and the relegation zone has been reduced to six points. With a number of teams near the bottom showing little sign of giving up the fight it is anyone’s guess how many points will be enough to guarantee safety.

On Saturday Newcastle may feel aggrieved not to have taken a share of the points as a late goal from Leon Best was ruled out. Pardew felt that it was a harsh decision but most pundits seemed to disagree with the Newcastle manager. Best did find the net with Newcastle’s opening goal and again continued his fine scoring run, which he may need to keep up until the end of the campaign.

Before the game, however, it was an ex-Newcastle striker who was in the news. A leaked document made the headlines in a number of newspapers when it was revealed that the Magpies’ former striker Andy Carroll was valued at only £1m at the start of last season. Carroll departed for £34m more than that sum in January, leading to mixed feelings about his departure on Tyneside. At the time of his original valuation Carroll was an unproven young striker who still had a lot to prove at the football club. But only one and a half seasons later he became the most expensive British player ever to be transferred. A lot of that turnaround should be credited to Chris Hughton and his coaching team who were able to maximise Carroll’s raw potential. With the injury problems now plaguing Pardew, the manager may wish Carroll was never sold.

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