Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Points." Gap to Third Place Is Focus for Magpies, Not the Form of Big Title Rivals; THE AGENDA: Why Newcastle Should Not Worry about Their Closest Championship Challengers

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Points." Gap to Third Place Is Focus for Magpies, Not the Form of Big Title Rivals; THE AGENDA: Why Newcastle Should Not Worry about Their Closest Championship Challengers

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Waugh Sports writer Twitter: @CHRISDHWAUGH

THERE is nothing more satisfying as a football supporter than seeing your side sat proudly at the top of the table - no matter what the division.

Newcastle United fans relished the experience during the 2009/10 Championship-winning campaign under Chris Hughton's tutelage and now, under Rafa Benitez's management, they are most certainly enjoying themselves once again.

Years of turgid football and of staving off relegation from the Premier League - or, as was the case last season, failing to do so - have been cast aside and replaced with a team who wins just about every game.

Out of the 25 matches United have played in all competitions this season, they have been victorious in 18 of them. Now that really is quite some return.

And, after Wednesday night's hard-fought victory over Wigan Athletic, the Magpies find themselves back on top of the table.

Twice already this week Newcastle have had to respond to being leapfrogged by their former boss and his Brighton and Hove Albion side to maintain their one-point advantage at the summit.

On Saturday United delivered a resounding 4-0 victory over Birmingham City.

Four days later, they notched up their eighth away win of the season by once again being resolute in defence and then using their clinical ruthlessness to put away their own chances when they came.

This weekend, the roles will be reversed. Newcastle will travel to the Pirelli Stadium for their first time in their history to take on Burton Albion at 3pm tomorrow in a game which promises to be every bit as demanding as any match United have played so far this term.

Little more than half an hour after the Magpies' game finishes, Brighton will then take to the field at St Andrew's bidding to ensure Gianfranco Zola does not enjoy a dream start to life as Birmingham boss.

Yet the reality is that, for now, Newcastle should forget about Brighton - while the Seagulls should ignore whatever the Magpies do. …

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