Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Damien Closes in on Return; Duff on Target in Friendly

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Damien Closes in on Return; Duff on Target in Friendly

Article excerpt

Byline: Luke Edwards

DAMIEN Duff made a scoring return to action for Newcastle in a behindclosed-doors friendly yesterday - but neither he nor Brazilian defender Claudio Cacapa will play at Fulham tomorrow.

United manager Sam Allardyce was delighted to see the pair come through the game against a Hartlepool United XI unscathed, but he will not take a chance on either of them as the Magpies look to rediscover their winning touch on the road against a Fulham side with one of the worst home records in the Premier League.

Duff will not even travel to the capital so that he can work on his fitness on Tyneside, while Cacapa will only be considered for a spot on the bench as Allardyce looks ahead to a gruelling Festive fixture list.

"The game will come a week or two too early for Damien because he is well short of match practice," said Allardyce, who warned the Magpies that Fulham are a far better team than their lowly league position would suggest.

"He came through the game well and scored, but we're not going to take any silly risks. He is just really happy to be out on the pitch again and the light at the end of the tunnel is a really big one for him now. I'm sure he's very relieved and we are looking forward to having a fit and firing Damien Duff available for selection.

"I don't know when that will be. He needs another couple of behind-closed-doors games before he can be considered for the first team and the problem is the reserve league shuts down for Christmas. We're desperately trying to get some games for him."

Cacapa will be in the squad which travels to London this afternoon, but the Brazilian will not come straight back into the team, even though his manager is adamant the blunders in his last game - the 4-1 home defeat to Portsmouth on November 3 - are long forgotten.

He said: "That game is so far gone, it has gone down the River Tyne, into the sea and it's on its way to bloody France now. …

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