Newcastle Club Focus – Magpies finally taste defeat

Newcastle’s unbeaten start to the season finally came to an end with defeat to Blackburn in the Carling Cup. Despite a spirited comeback from being 2-0 down, a late goal in extra time finally ended their cup hopes. Before Wednesday night’s game the Magpies had embarked on an eleven game run without defeat but they can still take plenty of heart from their start to the campaign and their ‘never say die’ attitude. Newcastle travel to Stoke City on Monday night looking to get the winning habit back as quickly as possible.

Alan Pardew chose a strong team to face Blackburn to show that he was taking the competition seriously. There were very few first team regulars rested with Steven Taylor and Cheik Tiote both absent through injury problems. There were opportunities handed to the likes of James Perch, Davide Santon and Danny Guthrie who so far have had very few opportunities to play this season.

Perhaps the performance did highlight a lack of depth to the Newcastle squad with the team lacking its usual organisation and cohesiveness. Pardew is currently short of options in the centre of defence with Taylor joined on the sidelines by Mike Williamson. Following the departure of Sol Campbell in the summer there are now only three experienced central defenders with the versatile Perch and the inexperienced Tamas Kadar the only other alternatives. The physical stature of Steven Taylor will be needed against Stoke although he is a slight doubt for the game due to a broken nose received against Wigan.

Pardew was understandably pleased with his side’s spirit despite ending up on the wrong side of the seven-goal thriller. The manager showed his willingness to get back into the game in the second half by sacrificing defender Danny Simpson in place of another forward. After the game he said: “I don’t like the tag of gallant losers but it was a fantastic effort and the fans would have appreciated the effort we have put in. It was a game that had some strange parts to it. We lacked urgency in the first half and I was a little disappointed but after that I couldn’t fault my team.” With the standard of the teams remaining in the competition it was always going to be a tough ask to reach a major final for the first time since 1999. The FA Cup is now the club’s most likely chance of silverware, despite their current top four position.

Newcastle travel to Stoke on Monday hoping to avoid another defeat in quick succession. The Britannia has not been a happy hunting ground for the Magpies as they have not won there in their two Premier League meetings. Last season Pardew’s side suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat at one of the toughest grounds to visit in the league. Pardew will hope to be able to call upon Taylor and midfielder Cheik Tiote if they can recover from their injury problems.

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