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Magpies leaving rivals perplexed.

Byline: JOHN GIBSON

IN THEIR last three home games Newcastle United have scored five, four and three goals, which sounds like footballing heaven.

However, the reality of the situation is the Magpies are not playing that well but have this wonderful ability to score goals.

That is the most crucial thing, of course, and for that we are eternally grateful. R

It makes for a real head-scratcher for the teams chasing United.

They don't know how to catch them, never mind leapfrog ahead.

A team playing not that well but rolling opposition over. What do we do about that? When I look back over the season, despite consistently good results, I believe United have played well for a whole match only twice - the 3-0 victory over Reading in the opening home game and the 4-0 success at Ipswich.

Oh, the 2-2 home draw with West Brom was a corker of a game, but Albion not just matched United but were probably better than them.

I know a few fans in will not believe my assessment, but my eyes do not lie and I am not alone.

I hasten to add I do not care as long as Newcastle are promoted, and promoted they will surely be.

I watched Albion lose at Bristol City on Sunday and they were appalling.

That is what the Championship is like. It is not chock-a-block with fine footballing sides who perform consistently well.

The number of injuries Newcastle and other teams suffer these days always amazes me, because we did not seem to suffer in the same way. If we were flying it usually resulted in players riding tackles and shaking off knocks. It is the old adage in football that you do not get hurt when you are winning!

Yet United have had a string of long-term injuries to Shola Ameobi, Steven Taylor, Joey Barton, Jose Enrique and Nicky Butt.

I am not suggesting anything untoward, it is just the modern game seems to throw up injuries which take a lot longer to get over.

That is why in this age of the rotation system and lengthy injuries I would like to pay tribute to Kevin Nolan.

He has played more matches than any other Newcastle player this season. Only goalkeeper Steve Harper gets anywhere near him.

Add the fact he is United's top goalscorer with 12 despite being a midfielder and you can see his value to the side.

Yet people dismiss him as too slow, lacking skill and craft and so on.

He was even criticised for going so long without a goal before he scored last Saturday.

Yet he operates in centre midfield for goodness sake!

When Andy Carroll was scoring only a few goals at the start of the season and Nile Ranger took time to notch his first no one criticised them and they are strikers.

Nolan lacks scorching pace, and playing Alan Smith alongside him is thus not necessarily a good idea.

Yet Nolan epitomises the spirit within Newcastle's ranks. I bet he is the first with his hand up when the question is put about availability. He deserves a break from the knockers.

In an interview with JOHN GIBSON

CAPTION(S):

TEAM SPIRIT: United's Kevin Nolan
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 27, 2010
Words:539
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