CHRIS Hughton is hopeful José Enrique’s caution pays dividends after revealing the Spaniard did not pull his hamstring at the weekend.
Newcastle United’s only specialist left-back lasted just 33 minutes on his return from a seven-match lay-off before limping off complaining of another problem with the muscle. The decision proved to be a wise one, the Magpies romping to a 6-1 victory without him. And Hughton has revealed the substitution was nothing more than a precaution.
“I am hoping it is good news,” the United manager told his club’s official website. “What José did say as he was coming off was he hasn’t pulled it. He thought it was best to come off at that stage. It felt tight and what he didn’t want to do was get to the stage where he possibly might pull it, but we are hoping that’s not too bad.”
With Patrick van Aanholt having returned from a successful loan spell at Chelsea the previous week, Newcastle will be keen that Hughton’s optimism proves well-founded. With no midweek game, Enrique at least has extra time to recover ahead of Saturday’s game at Middlesbrough’s Riverside.
If the Spaniard fails to make it, central defender Tamas Kadar will be asked to deputise the day before his 20th birthday. The Hungarian has started just three league matches for the Magpies and Hughton concedes he remains something of an unknown quantity.
“Young Tamas Kadar came on (against Barnsley) and I know he played the majority of the game against 10 men, so perhaps he wasn’t under as much pressure as he would have been, but he did very well,” he added.
Meanwhile striker Peter Løvenkrands admitted he was disappointed not to have claimed his second hat-trick for the club at the weekend. Løvenkrands put his side into a 2-0 lead on Saturday against opponents who were down to 10 men courtesy of Luke Steele’s professional foul on him. The goals kept flowing but no more came the Dane’s way.
“I came so close with the header – I thought it was going in because the goalkeeper (David Preece) was standing looking at it as well,” said Løvenkrands, who scored a hat-trick against Plymouth Argyle in January’s FA Cup third-round replay.
“But it came back into his arms and he was lucky.”
Having failed to find the net in his first 10 appearances since rejoining the club in August, Løvenkrands is now pushing to end the campaign as Newcastle’s top scorer.
He drew level at the top of United’s charts for 23 minutes on Saturday, before Kevin Nolan found the net for the 13th time this term. All 12 of Løvenkrands’ goals have come at St James’ Park, including 10 in his last nine appearances there.
He might have had another had it not been for the selfishness of French winger Fabrice Pancrate in the closing stages – not that the 30-year-old attached any blame to his team-mate.
“We had the chance when me and Fabrice were through and I was screaming at him to square it,” he revealed. “But we were so many goals up by then that I think he wanted to get one and that’s fair enough.
“Unfortunately it didn’t go in but I don’t blame him for shooting.”
Midfielder Alan Smith is expected to be fit to return on Saturday, having been ruled out of the Barnsley game with a knock picked up in training.
His return could mean Danny Guthrie once more having to be shunted out of the central position he excelled in against the Tykes to one wide on the right of midfield.