NEWCASTLE United take on Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium today determined to improve a poor away record which saw their lead at the top of the Championship overhauled this week.
But manager Chris Hughton does not want anyone to get too wrapped up in what is after all only half of the picture.
The Magpies have won none of their last six away games, culminating in Tuesday’s embarrassing 3-0 defeat to struggling Derby County.
It is a run which has seen them exit the FA Cup and surrender a lead at the top of the table which stood at eight points when the sequence began.
Hughton accepts it needs to be put right, but is conscious of not over-reacting with his team only second on goal difference, with a game in hand on leaders West Bromwich Albion.
More importantly, they remain four points ahead of third-placed Nottingham Forest, who have also played a game more.
Winning the title would be good for damaged Newcastle pride, but earning promotion is all that really matters to Hughton.
“There’s always concern when you don’t get the points you want to get,” he said. “We’re playing in a very tough league and we know our home record is going to be better than our away record. I can probably speak for every manager on that count. But we now need to start picking up more points away from home.”
What has really cost Newcastle the top spot they held for three months is West Brom rediscovering some consistency. Hughton sees their fluctuating fortunes as part of the ebb and flow of a Championship season.
“West Brom went through a spell where they weren’t doing so well at home and maybe there’s something in the individuals they’ve got which suits them away from home,” he said. “They’ve changed their shape of late. I think their first change was when they played against us, which was five in midfield.
“What they have is players that can score goals – (Chris) Brunt has got seven goals, (Graeme) Dorrans is into double figures (he has 12), (Jerome) Thomas has eight. That’s possibly the reason they’ve been so successful away from home too.
“But things turn around. We’ve gone through periods this season where we’ve done well away from home and maybe now the results have gone in a different way.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how you get them so long as you get the results.” Newcastle have gone through their own change of tactical focus recently after the arrival of six signings and a change of role for one of Hughton’s existing players.
“Certain things change in a season,” Hughton commented. “If I look at Danny Guthrie, for probably most of the season he’s been used in a wider area. He’s played in the centre for the last couple of games and done very well.
“It’s a position he’d played quite a few times before he came to the club. There’s always going to be aspects which are going to change your thinking but you have to be very open.” With Fabricio Coloccini and Ryan Taylor back from injury, a change of personnel and possibly formation is likely for today’s televised clash. But Hughton has defended his uncharacteristically open approach at Pride Park.
“You have to evaluate every game but I wanted to go that way, probably based on the fact we didn’t get a win at Leicester,” he said. “We got a very good result against Cardiff and my thoughts were to go the same. The feeling you can get from a home game is harder to replicate away.
“All of that I was aware of and felt it was the best line-up to go with.”