Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pardew Forced to Field Weakened Side for Cup; Absentees Making Pardew's Job Harder

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pardew Forced to Field Weakened Side for Cup; Absentees Making Pardew's Job Harder

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

NEWCASTLE United will be without the spine of their side at Stevenage for tomorrow's FA Cup tie, but they at least expect to have midweek hat-trick hero Leon Best available.

With Andy Carroll on a mid-winter break, the positive bulletin on Best was welcome as casualties continue to mount at St James' Park. The striker limped off three-quarters of the way through his full Premier League debut, Wednesday's 5-0 win over West Ham United, and had been expected to miss the weekend game with a heel injury. But the damage was not as bad as first feared.

With Shola Ameobi (ankle) and Steven Taylor (hamstring) injured, Steve Harper will be on compassionate leave and Cheik Tiot's hamstring will not be risked eight days before the Wear-Tyne derby.

Alan Pardew, an FA Cup finalist as a player and manager, has been very vocal about playing a strong side against League Two Stevenage, but may now find it difficult.

"As Premier League managers you get criticised for resting players in the cup, and I've had it myself in reverse," he noted. "I played a weakened Premier League team before a quarter-final against Manchester City (in 2006). We played at Portsmouth, lost that, then won the cup game. I want to play my strongest team but I'm not going to put anyone at risk.

"One of the players I'm not going to put at risk is Cheik Tiot, who has got a slight tightness in his hamstring. Would I play him if we were playing Sunderland this week? I might. Will I play him against Stevenage? Maybe not." Sol Campbell has not played since Christmas with illness, and Hatem Ben Arfa and Ryan Taylor are long-term injured. Tim Krul will keep goal with Harper's wife expecting a child at the weekend .

The extent of Taylor's hamstring damage is being assessed, but he has already been ruled out. Carroll (pictured below) will not be at Broadhall Way either, having been sent abroad for a sunshine break while he recovers from a thigh strain. …

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