Harper stresses the importance of the next week

13 October 2009 09:22
STEVE HARPER has challenged his Newcastle United team-mates to recover from two frustrating nights at St James Park by emerging unbeaten from back-to-back away days to keep them ahead of the rest.

Successive home draws with QPR and Bristol City prevented the Magpies from extending their advantage at the top of the Championship ahead of trips to Nottingham Forest and Scunthorpe.

But rather than dwell on the previous results, which have ended with Newcastle leading the division regardless of recent form, Harper wants the players to look on the next seven days as an opportunity to widen the gap.

Weve got two away games in the space of four or five days and when that happens weve got to try to make sure we take four or six points from them, said Harper, who expects to be in goal at the City Ground on Saturday. Thats the big challenge in this division, the speed with which the games come round.

Weve had a good start to the season and with a quarter of the season gone we are happy with where we are, but there is a long way to go. We havent achieved anything yet.

Harper has learned something from the last two frustrating matches, however, having experienced just how difficult life outside the Premier League can be.

QPR and Bristol City have both come to St James Park and they have set themselves up to be difficult to break down and we are going to have to work out how to cope with that because everyone will do it, he said.

If we had won those two games we would have had a big lead at the top, but we havent managed to do it so the rest of the league are on our shoulders.

If you look at it, West Brom, Middlesbrough and Cardiff have all lost a few games this season.

We have to remember that could be us at some stage this season and its important we all stick together and get through it. When I say stick together I mean the players, the staff and the fans.

Despite failing to win their last two matches, Newcastle are still four points clear of third-placed Middlesbrough and three ahead of West Brom in second.

It is an indication of Newcastles impressive start to life in the Championship that two draws can be perceived as a dip in form, with the trip to Blackpool the only time they have lost so far.

We cannot afford to underestimate this division. There are 23 other teams in there who could all stop us from getting promoted, said Harper.

There are a lot of games in this league, more than we are used to playing with a smaller squad than we are used to having.

Source: Northern_Echo