Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Baggies Encounter May Prove Pivotal

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Baggies Encounter May Prove Pivotal

Article excerpt

Byline: John Gibson

THIS evening has long been touted as the defining match of the season with regard to Newcastle United's future.

While I would perhaps not go quite that far it is easy to understand why a match between the Championship's two front runners for most of the first half of an absorbing season should create such fervour.

Defeat West Bromwich and the Magpies will fly high a whopping nine points in front of third place, which condemns the occupier to play-off torture.

Lose it and suddenly United are within touching distance, only three points and therefore one match ahead of their Midland rivals. That's how much rests on the outcome at what will be a packed, bouncing St James' Park.

Goals win games of course and therefore the slight concern United have is that not one of their four frontline attackers has reached double figures despite Newcastle having been comfortably top of the table for some considerable while.

And we're talking about all competitions, not just 24 Championship encounters but another four in cups.

That is why a centre-forward - and particularly Jermaine Beckford, who is now to stay at home - has dominated Chris Hughton's thinking this transfer window.

United's top gun has burst through the 10-goal barrier, of course, but surprisingly it's a midfield player, Kevin Nolan, who has shown the way, especially away from home when he has been dropped into the hole behind a lone target man.

Of the quartet of orthodox strikers Shola Ameobi has by far the best goals per game average while Andy Carroll, for all his power and physical presence, simply hasn't scored often enough. He is indeed a latter-day Duncan Ferguson.

As for Nile Ranger, still blossoming like Carroll, he needs more game time to determine whether or not he can score regularly even at this level. …

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