Mike Williamson will try to shackle Nikola Zigic as Newcastle face Birmingham

15 February 2011 10:44
Newcastle defender Mike Williamson will be handed the unenviable task of trying to combat towering Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic on Tuesday night.

The 6ft 8in Serbia forward has scored in each of his last three games, including winners against both West Ham and Stoke, after taking time to settle into life in the Barclays Premier League, and will head into the clash with the Magpies gunning for more goals as the Blues attempt to ease themselves further clear of the drop zone.

But Alan Pardew's men, with the notable exception of the early stages of their remarkable 4-4 draw with Arsenal, have proved admirably resilient since the turn of the year to put together a run of seven league games which has brought just one defeat.

Clean sheet: Williamson (right) managed to keep Blackburn's strikers out in a 0-0 draw at the weekend

Former Portsmouth defender Williamson, 27, has proved an able deputy for the injured Steven Taylor alongside Fabricio Coloccini since the start of January and, at 6ft 4in, it will be he who will be charged with the task of reining in 30-year-old Zigic.

Pardew said: 'We had a similar problem at Blackburn with Christopher Samba. Samba is 6ft 5in and very, very strong physically at set-plays.

'Zigic is the same, but Mike Williamson will be tagged to look after him and I have no doubts. Mike is very, very strong himself.'

Newcastle drew 0-0 at Ewood Park on Saturday as they managed to keep Samba and his team-mates at bay.

Indeed, they headed back across the Pennines feeling they might have been doing so with all three points after Peter Lovenkrands hit the bar and Coloccini forced a fine save from keeper Paul Robinson.

Tall order: Birmingham's giant striker Zigic towers above most of the defenders in the Premier League

The Magpies have drawn four of their last five league games, and while points at home to Tottenham and the Gunners, as well as away to Sunderland and Blackburn, must be considered positive results, they are desperate to reach the 40-point mark as quickly as possible to avoid being dragged into the fight against relegation.

Andy Carroll's ?35million departure for Liverpool and the fractured cheekbone which has ruled Shola Ameobi out of the last two games - he will travel to America on Thursday to be fitted for a protective mask and could face Bolton on February 26 - have left the club short of strikers.

However, Pardew remains convinced that in Lovenkrands, Leon Best, Nile Ranger and latest arrival Shefki Kuqi, he has the firepower to get over the finishing line.

He said: 'We are coping pretty well with the loss of Shola. We are doing okay. We are an honest team. The fans understand that when you put a Newcastle shirt on, the minimum requirement is honesty, and then you need to add quality and a bit of passion in your play, and you can win games.

'We can win games with the team we have.'

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Source: Daily_Mail