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MIKE IS NO THUG INSISTS HUGHTON; Newcastle are ready to fight Williamson charge.

Byline: MARK DOUGLAS

CHRIS HUGHTON has launched a stout defence of Mike Williamson as Newcastle prepare to fight the violent conduct charge that could see the influential defender ruled out for the next three games.

The Newcastle boss admits Williamson was "silly" to get involved in an off-the-ball incident with Johan Elmander during the Bolton defeat - but reckons it was a yellowcard offence at worst.

The Toon chief has viewed the incident and reckons Williamson was retaliating to a "pull" from Elmander with a body check, which would not merit more than a caution.

Although Hughton was staying tightlipped on the prospect of an appeal, it is understood the club - who have until 6pm to respond - will contest the charge.

With Fabricio Coloccini out for three games after being sent off at the Reebok Stadium, Newcastle's threadbare squad is being stretched by suspensions. Joey Barton, a key man this term, also misses the visit of Chelsea on Sunday.

"It was a silly action by Mike, but I think it was the frustration of some five minutes before that when Johan Elmander pulled him down," Hughton said.

"It's there for everybody to see, he shouldn't have got involved. But what it was, was a body check and no more than that.

"It was a reaction to Elmander pulling him - it was a yellow card.

"The charge is the last thing we need at the moment with Colo missing the next three games.

"But I can't what defend what Colo did. We have to accept the ban, and get on with it."

Without a win in three, Newcastle are going through their most difficult patch since returning to the top flight.

And a concerned Hughton - still without a recognised No 2 a month after Colin Calderwood left for Hibs - admits he is not helped by suspensions that he confesses are "affecting" his squad.

"We could have done without the charge," he said.

"If you look at Mike and Colo's record, they aren't players who pick up a lot of bookings.

"We're going through a period where Joey Barton's banned, and Colo's out for three games. It's a concern, absolutely.

"We have to make sure we focus on winning football matches. We've got a small squad, and we need to have as many players available as possible. It's affecting the squad."

The charge is bad timing for the reliable defender, who the Chronicle understands is set to sign a new three-year deal to ward off interest from Spurs.

Harry Redknapp dispatched scouts to watch him during the Blackburn defeat at St James' Park - but United have moved quickly to try and tie him up on a long-term deal.

Meanwhile, United will include Tamas Kadar and Nile Ranger for the Northumberland Senior Cup clash with Bedlington Terriers at Whitley Park tonight (7.30pm).

The Hungary defender comes into contention for the Chelsea match but needs match practice - while Ranger's participation continues his development after his recent Premier League experience.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 23, 2010
Words:495
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