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newcastle 1000x500It’s the last day of January, the last day of the transfer window, but whilst Jim Wight thinks he’s the centre of attention for the day, we travel to Newcastle for one of seven Premier League games to be played tonight.

This is a trip we haven’t made very often in recent years. We suffered a 3-0 defeat there back in November 1982 when their goals came from Kevin Keegan, Imre Varadi and Chris Waddle. Tonight’s will be only our second visit to St. James’ Park since, the most recent one covered below when we drew 3-3 on New Year’s Day 2015.

That game just over three years ago was the first time I’d been in the current away fan section at Newcastle. I’d been warned it was high but not for one minute did I expect it to be as high as it is. Our seating is on level 7 and there is a climb of 140 steps to reach it.

The game comes during what has proved to be our toughest period of the season so far. Since beating Stoke fifty days ago to go fourth in the table, we’ve failed to record another victory with just three points collected from three away games at Brighton, Manchester United and Huddersfield.

For the second time this season, we go into a game looking to complete the double over a club. It didn’t quite work out at Crystal Palace, when we turned in arguably our worst performance of the season, but we have that opportunity again tonight after Jeff Hendrick, who celebrates his 26th birthday today, scored to give us a 1-0 win against Newcastle at the Turf back in October.

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Ben Mee, who has captained the side since Tom Heaton’s injury in September, admitted: “We have gone through a tough period. We’ve played a lot of big teams. At home we’ve had three or four of the top six and we have another one at the weekend.

“We’ve also had a few tough away games, but we’re not seeing this run as a bad thing. We have played some good games and had some decent performances within that. People on the outside will make a big thing about us not winning in six, or whatever it is, but we’re not too worried and we’ve set ourselves in a good position to go and attack these next games.”

He added: “People will bark on about it and go on about it outside the club, but we know what we’ve been doing here and we know the performances we’ve been putting in. We don’t really listen to all of that going on. People try and knock us down a little bit, but we know where we’re at and we know how well we’re playing at the minute in games.”

The good news for manager Sean Dyche is that Mee is available to lead the side tonight although he will surely have Kevin Long alongside him with James Tarkowski unlikely to play with a groin injury.

The injuries are piling up. We’ll be without Heaton, Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, although he is back in training, Steven Defour, Dean Marney, Robbie Brady, Jon Walters and Chris Wood tonight. If we had a fully fit squad I would think six of those would be guaranteed starters.

Besides Tarkowski, Defour and Marney have been added to the list of wounded. It’s not looking good for either of them short term and I don’t expect them to be available for selection for quite some time. It’s a blow regarding Defour who has been outstanding this season whilst Marney, who hasn’t played in the first team for over a year, looks set for even longer out with a medial ligament injury.

Thankfully, we have made two signings during January and both will almost certainly be in the squad tonight although both will probably be on the bench. Georges-Kévin NKoudou has already enjoyed two cameo roles but for Aaron Lennon it will be his first involvement since making the move from Everton last week.

The team could be: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Barnes. Subs: Anders Lindegaard, Matt Lowton, Fredrik Ulvestad, Georges-Kévin NKoudou, Aaron Lennon, Nahki Wells, Sam Vokes.

All the news coming out of Newcastle recently has been of a potential takeover, now in the past apparently, of disgruntled supporters and of a lack of activity in the transfer window, their one signing to date is Kenedy on loan from Chelsea. He said he’d heard of Newcastle having seen the film Goal.

It does seem to a club who lurch from one crisis after another. It’s certainly been the case since Mike Ashley took over the club but there were real hopes that he was about to sell to Amanda Staveley until pulling the plug on the deal a couple of weeks ago with a source close to the owner saying: “It is only right to let the fans know that there is no deal on the table or even under discussion with Amanda Staveley and PCP. Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time.”

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On the field, under Rafa Benitez, they returned to the Premier League last summer just as we’d done a year previously as champions of the Football League Championship. On their return, they lost the first two games against Spurs and Huddersfield but then followed that up with three wins which sparked real hopes of a successful season.

Those wins were against West Ham, Swansea and Stoke but there have only been three more victories since against Crystal Palace, and then second wins of the season against West Ham and Stoke, that last win at Stoke coming courtesy of a goal from Ayoze Pérez (pictured).

That’s left them currently in 15th place in the table but they are the highest placed of four teams on 23 points with Stoke the lowest in 18th position.

Kenedy will be added to the squad although any further signings today will not be available and that is likely to include Leicester’s Islam Slimani who is set to join them on loan.

Benitez made a number of changes for their FA Cup tie at Chelsea but the team for their last league game at Manchester City was: Karl Darlow, Deandre Yedlin, Isaac Hayden, Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark, Paul Dummitt, Jacob Murphy, Jonjo Shelvey, Mohamed Diamé, Ayoze Pérez, Dwight Gayle. Subs: Rob Elliot, Javier Manquillo, Christian Atsu, Joselu, Mikel Merino, Massadio Haïdara, Matt Ritchie.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

We went into 2015 in 19th place in the Premier League with 16 points, behind Hull and Crystal Palace on goal difference and three points ahead of bottom club Leicester. Newcastle were in the top half of the league although were without manager Alan Pardew who it was thought was about to join Crystal Palace.

New Year’s Day at Newcastle turned out to be an eventful day. We were forced to make three substitutions in the first half, we fell behind three times, but a George Boyd goal four minutes from time earned us a point in a dramatic 3-3 draw.

Newcastle were in front on the quarter hour through Steven Taylor. it kicked off an interesting few minutes. Two minutes later, we were forced to replace Jason Shackell with Kevin Long and it was Long’s ball up the field from which Paul Dimmitt replied with an own goal equaliser, still the only player to score an own goal for us in the Premier League.

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Jack Colback restored the home side’s lead but just past the half hour we lost Dean Marney, with Michael Kightly coming on, and then Long was stretchered off with a cruciate ligament rupture and that saw Steven Reid on the pitch.

That brought changes galore. Reid went to right-back with Kieran Trippier switching to the left and Ben Mee moving into the centre of defence to partner Michael Keane.

We could never have envisaged the second half performance but we simply played them off the park and really should have gone on to win the game. Danny Ings got the second equaliser midway through the half but Newcastle, incredibly, went in front again when Moussa Sissoko scored with their only real chance of the half.

Defeat, alas, looked likely. That was until Boyd scored our third and sent the away fans into raptures at that end of the ground. We’d deserved more but what a result and performance given all that went against us that afternoon.

The teams were;

Newcastle: Jak Alnwick, Daryl Janmaat, Steven Taylor (Mike Williamson 60), Fabricio Collocini, Paul Dimmitt, Cheick Tiote, Jack Colback, Yoan Gouffran (Massadio Haïdara 71), Moussa Sissoko, Ayoze Perez, Emmanuel Riviere (Adam Armstrong 57). Subs not used: Freddie Woodman, Davide Santon, Vurnon Anita, Remy Cabella.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Keane, Jason Shackell (Kevin Long 17, Steven Reid 37), Ben Mee, George Boyd, Dean Marney (Michael Kightly 32), David Jones, Scott Arfield, Danny Ings, Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Ross Wallace, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Marvin Sordell.

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