CHRIS Hughton watched his Newcastle United players give yet another demonstration of why they are clear favourites to win this season’s Championship, but refuses to regard it as a foregone conclusion.
As so often this season, the Magpies earned more points from a match than their performance merited. Middlesbrough had much the better of them at the Riverside, only for in-form strikers Peter Løvenkrands and Andy Carroll to score the first and last goals in a 2-2 draw.
United are mixing comprehensive victories with gritty displays – often on a home-and-away basis – but it is the latter which marks them out as Champions-elect. “It’s games like this and the Swansea match that explain why we are top of the league, not matches like the ones against Cardiff and Barnsley,” admitted Hughton afterwards. “We’re never out of a game because we have a real desire to win football matches and pick up points.
“We also have good quality in the team, and as long as you have that, you’ll always have a chance. Someone like Andy Carroll can score different types of goals, and as long as we stay in a game, we know we have enough players who can score out of pretty much nothing.”
Allied to Carroll’s goals – eight of which have come in his last 11 appearances – Newcastle have perhaps the division’s most reliable goalkeeper. Steve Harper made a crucial save to deny former Sunderland player Julio Arca in Saturday’s second half.
“Steve’s been outstanding this season,” said Hughton. “What probably sums up the quality of his goalkeeping is the games where he hasn’t had much to do, but he’s still come up with a crucial save.”