LEON Best has told Newcastle United they must live with being “the Manchester United of the Championship” but the character they showed at Swansea City has only strengthened his view that the Magpies will finish the season as title winners.
A 1-1 draw at play-off-chasing Swansea extended Newcastle’s run of matches without an away win to seven, but their post-match mood was still extremely positive.
Newcastle were outplayed for almost the entire game, yet showed great character to claim an 87th-minute equaliser, when Andy Carroll headed in Best’s cross to return his side to the top of the Championship.
With Nottingham Forest surprisingly beaten at Doncaster Rovers, the all-important gap to third place was extended to five points with power to add.
If the result at the Keepmoat Stadium was a reminder of the division’s unpredictability, events in South Wales reinforced Best’s view that all Championship sides raise their game against Newcastle.
“As I’ve noticed in the couple of games I’ve played here, Newcastle are the Man U of this league and everyone wants to play well against Newcastle and be the one to score or to beat Newcastle,” said Best.
“We just have to go into every single game looking to win it, but when teams are giving their all and maybe that extra bit, we’ve got to put up with it and try and get as many points as we can.”
Swansea took the lead through David Cotterill’s 56th-minute curler and showed few signs of relinquishing it until Carroll’s late header.
“When you look at that match it was a point gained,” added Best, signed from Coventry City last month. “We’re top of the league now.
“I was here a couple of weeks ago with Coventry and they just passed us off the park. We got a draw and were happy with that. In a way it’s kind of the same feeling. We fought back and got the point, so it’s a positive in the end.
“It’s a tough place to come because they’ve got good players who keep the ball and work you. They make you tired chasing the ball.
“We want to win every game. We want to win the league and we will win the league. But when you come to places like this, you’ve got to look at a point as a good result.”
England Under-21 international Carroll capitalised not only on Best’s excellent delivery but also referee Andy Woolmer’s leniency five minutes earlier. Carroll was
controversially only cautioned for leading with the elbow when jumping for a high ball with opposition captain Garry Monk.
Having been dropped to the bench for the first time in his fledgling Newcastle career, Best was delighted with his involvement in the goal, and pointed to it as an example of how to get the best from Carroll.
“I was pleased to make a contribution,” he said. “Whether I’m on the bench or starting I want to be part of it and part of a winning team.
“To come on and set Andy up is a pleasure. I enjoy it just as much as a goal. We need to do that more, we need to get balls in the box and let Andy feed off them. We’ve got strikers who can score goals.”
The draw was Newcastle’s game in hand on West Bromwich Albion, who now have an FA Cup replay to add to their fixture list.
They have played a game less than Forest, the highest of those teams outside the automatic promotion places.
Jonas Gutierrez travelled to Swansea but was left out of the matchday squad as a precaution after a muscle injury. He is expected to be fit in time for the visit of Coventry to St James’ Park on Wednesday.
However, Shola Ameobi is not after injuring a hamstring in training.