Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Hughton's Mean Machine Rolls On

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Hughton's Mean Machine Rolls On

Article excerpt

Byline: Lee Ryder's

Coventry City.......... 0 Newcastle Utd ........ 2 CAN ANYBODY stop mighty Newcastle United? That was the burning question after another accomplished and polished performance against lowly Coventry City.

They've already ensured that their Christmas present to the Toon Army will be to top the Coca-Cola Championship on Christmas Day and now the challenge has to be just how quickly they can deliver a place back in the top flight.

Indeed, with 26 games left it appears that the only team that can stop Newcastle United are, well, Newcastle United.

Bigger leads have been blown, of course, and there hasn't been any shortage of people willing to ask you to turn the pages of the history books to 1996, when a 12-point advantage was somehow squandered in the Premier League.

That was then, though, and this is now.

The difference this time is Newcastle aren't under the same intense pressure as they were then to end their long trophy drought.

And, more significantly, the quality of the Coca-Cola Championship is nowhere near the same standard as the top flight and there isn't a team that never say die like Manchester United in a very average second tier.

There's also no Eric Cantona or Peter Schmeichel knocking around these days to spoil the party, and unless a serious contender emerges from the darkness, Newcastle can start planning for the Premier League sooner rather than later.

Back then, everything that could have gone wrong for Newcastle pretty much did go wrong.

But at the moment it seems Newcastle are just in too much of a predatory mood to give anybody an inch.

Or at least that was the impression that came across last night at the Ricoh Arena.

Even the pre-game Andy Carroll saga couldn't knock Newcastle out of their rampant stride as they made it seven wins out of seven - the last time they did that was with the famous 5-0 win over Man U in the 96/97 campaign.

And it turned out to be seventh heaven for Chris Hughton, who opted to axe Carroll from the squad altogether, leaving him to stew in the stands after off-the-field activities this week.

Newcastle had started the game against the Sky Blues by pressing their hosts back from the off.

They could easily have had THREE penalties in the first half had ref Grant Hegley been in a more generous festive mood.

Instead, Hegley had clearly decided before the game he wouldn't be swayed by players appealing and, on the two occasions Peter Lovenkrands was felled and then when Shola Ameobi went down, left Hughton staggered after turning down what looked like three nailed-on pens. That's no problem for this team.

Despite the harsh refereeing, Newcastle still just got on with the task in hand.

And although Coventry had wobbled the crossbar twice in the same move through Leon Best and Anar Gunnarsson, not even the most blinkered Coventry supporter could argue that Newcastle deserved to be in the lead at the break as the Magpies' pressure finally paid off. …

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