Settled start is threatened after Shola Ameobi suffers strain

ALAN Pardew saw Steven Taylor's broken nose coming, but Newcastle United's manager must also deal with the unexpected blow of being without Shola Ameobi for four to six weeks.

Shola Ameobi

ALAN Pardew saw Steven Taylor's broken nose coming, but Newcastle United's manager must also deal with the unexpected blow of being without Shola Ameobi for four to six weeks.

Having admitted on Thursday centre-back was “one of our weaker areas at the minute”, Sod’s Law dictated one was bound to get injured on Saturday.

Taylor suffered a bang in the face which forced him to twice leave the field to stem the bleeding.

Although Pardew was tight-lipped on Taylor’s availability for tomorrow’s League Cup tie at Blackburn Rovers, he did reveal the defender might be forced to wear a mask, as Ameobi did after fracturing his cheekbone last season.

Pardew (pictured right) acknowledged: “It is the position which is most vulnerable. I almost knew something like that would happen on Saturday. In actual fact, I predicted it before the game.

“I just felt by the law of averages something was not going to go well and that is why I changed the bench.

“I took a striker off in Peter Løvenkrands and brought on a centre-half in James Perch and also put Smithy (Alan Smith) on there because I just felt we might need his experience in that game if it really went astray.

“Luckily it did not and we did not concede a goal or two goals and have to fight back, but I did think it was going to be one of those days.”

Newcastle’s clean sheet was their fourth of a Premier League season during which their entire defensive unit of goalkeeper, back four and holding midfielder have started each match.

Third-choice centre-back Mike Williamson is reckoned to be four to five weeks from returning after an ankle injury.

Taylor was rested for the last round of the League Cup, at Nottingham Forest, with the versatile Perch deputising. Pardew, who tried and failed to sign cover in the August window, with a deal for Liam Ridgewell thought to have broken down at the 11th hour, acknowledged that without Williamson, Perch “really is our cover”.

While Pardew thinks his looks are Taylor’s main concern, he was more worried about what might happen if the defender’s nose bleeds uncontrollably again at Ewood Park.

He added: “I think (a mask) is something we might have to look at but we have to make sure he looks after his looks.

“Cosmetically he is not feeling too clever.

“He lost a lot of blood and we had him off the pitch for four or five minutes and you cannot do that at this level.

“It is something we will have to think about for tomorrow night.”

Stoke City are Newcastle’s next league opponents and the notoriously direct Potters are not a team you would want to face with only one specialist centre-back. The only saving grace is the game has been put back until Monday for television.

Having followed Taylor’s lead in playing on with an injury against Wigan, Newcastle will be

without striker Ameobi for most if not all of an extremely challenging November programme.

Pardew revealed: “He is out for four to six weeks with a hamstring strain.

“He is going to be a loss for us and the fans, who will see how important to us when he is not there.

“He felt something after about three minutes of coming on, but still played on.”

Goalkeeper Steve Harper made his Brighton debut at home to West Ham United last night and, although Pardew was effusive, his comments were ominous for the 36-year-old’s long-term prospects on Tyneside.

He said: “Steve is going to play for the next three or four years at the top level, so this is an opportunity for him to show his wares. If he does not stay at Brighton, he will always get a top club.”

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