DANNY Guthrie is hoping to be back in first-team action straight after the international break following a long and difficult recovery from the most frustrating injury of his career.
Guthrie played the full 90 minutes for Newcastle’s reserves against Aston Villa yesterday, with right-back Danny Simpson also lasting for 75 minutes as they took a big leap forward in their respective rehabilitations.
The game itself was a drab goalless draw with excitement in short supply, but the quietly efficient performances of Guthrie and Simpson will have pleased the watching Chris Hughton.
Guthrie (pictured right) picked up a knee ligament injury in training on the eve of the new season, while Simpson missed all of the club’s pre-season preparations following surgery on a long-standing ankle problem back in May.
And it is Guthrie who is pushing hardest for a recall when the Magpies take on Wigan in ten days time. He admitted he struggled to deal with such a long-term injury just two days before the season was due to start.
He said: “I felt pretty good out there and it was good to get the full 90 minutes under my belt. I wanted to stay out there for the whole game and show the manager I’m match fit. It’s been difficult to watch the team, especially after working so hard last year to get the club back into the Premier League.
“To get such a bad injury was hard to take, but thankfully I’m back now.
“I’ve been training with the first team for the last couple of weeks and I’m pushing for selection now.
“It’s definitely been the most frustrating injury I’ve had.
“I had done a full pre-season, was fit and raring to go and picked up the knee injury two days before the Manchester United game.
“I was devastated at the time because I’d spent all summer building up to that game, but I’ve just had to get my head down and be patient.” Simpson would appear to be at least another fortnight away from challenging James Perch for the problematic right-back berth, although the run-out at Newcastle’s Longbenton training ground will have done him a lot of good, even if the game itself was a massive disappointment. Villa were poor, but Newcastle, despite also naming Alan Smith and Ryan Taylor in their starting line-up, failed to take the game by the scruff of the neck and were eventually put under some late pressure from the visitors.
The Magpies, who were only watched by a handful of people because of the decision to play the game behind closed doors at Darsley Park rather than down the road at Blue Flames, should have taken the lead after ten minutes.
Phil Airey and Guthrie combined to send Xisco in on goal, but the Spanish flop put his shot far too close to Villa goalkeeper Elliot Parish who got down comfortably to block. A shoving contest between Guthrie and James Collins Jnr briefly raised pulses on the pitch, but the contest quickly returned to a more moribund level as neither side managed to make any headway in the final third.
Shane Ferguson did test the goalkeeper from the edge of the area with a well-struck shot before Airey shot tamely at the legs of Parish after he was also sent in on goal.
Villa offered even less, although they did apply some late pressure with a succession of corners after Ole Soderberg had tipped over substitute Graham Burke’s free-kick from 20 yards.
Newcastle’s defence, though, with James Tavernier and Matthew Grieve particularly impressive, held firm.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Soderberg, Simpson (Henderson 75), Tavernier, Grieve, Dummett; Taylor, Guthrie, Smith (Donaldson 46) Ferguson (Ameobi 80), Xisco, Airey. Subs (not used): Alnwick, McLaughlin.
ASTON VILLA (4-4-2): Parish; Berry, Clark, Lowry, Deeney, Barton (Taylor 70), Hogg, Johnson, Cameron (Burke 85), Nelson-Addy, Collins Jnr. Subs (not used): Marshall, Halfhuid, Jenkins.