Newcastle V West Brom at St James' Park: LIVE

06 February 2016 09:41
Newcastle V West Brom - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Steve McClaren: Newcastle did not see this defensive crisis coming

Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren has defended the club's decision not to recruit defenders in January as he faces a fresh injury crisis during a relegation fight.

The Magpies entertain West Brom on Saturday still sitting inside the Barclays Premier League's bottom three and are two points shy of safety with time running out fast.

McClaren will be without a specialist left-back and is down to his last two central defenders for a game which increasingly looks like a must-win affair after Chancel Mbemba and Paul Dummett picked up injuries in Wednesday night's 3-0 defeat at Everton, during which Jamaal Lascelles was sent off.

But the boss has insisted a club which now has 12 men on the casualty list could not have foreseen the simultaneous loss of so many key players as it carried out its transfer window business.

He said: "We could never have foreseen that. We had four fit ones (central defenders) all training before the window closed, so no, there's no criticism there.

"We would never envisage that in one game, we would lose three defenders, two centre-halves especially.

"The sending-off right in the last minute was really frustrating because Jamaal was playing well and we'll need Jamaal for the next few games."

Mbemba is the main concern with appointments to see specialists in both London and Belgium about his ankle problem having been arranged, and while McClaren is keeping his fingers crossed, there is a fear that the player's absence could be lengthy.

The former England boss said: "We are still waiting. He's had one scan and I think he is going for a second opinion down in London and also in Belgium, so by the middle of next week, we will really know the diagnosis and how long he will be out."

McClaren, who will miss Lascelles through suspension for just one game, is more hopeful over Dummett after he aggravated an existing hamstring problem, but midfielder Jack Colback, a potential emergency left-back, will not be involved this weekend, leaving his boss with a major headache.

He at least has experienced central defender Steven Taylor as his disposal, although his only football since he damaged a hamstring back in August came in a behind-closed-doors practice match defeat to Sunderland 10 days ago.

Meanwhile, West Brom boss Tony Pulis has dismissed as "banter" the taunts by Swansea fans in midweek about the bowel condition that threatened Darren Fletcher's career.

The Albion captain angered visiting supporters during Tuesday night's 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns when he appealed for a corner while Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-yueng lay on the ground with a head injury, prompting chants of "what's it like to s*** your pants?" in reference to Fletcher's successful battle against ulcerative colitis.

Fletcher, 32, underwent surgery for the debilitating illness three years ago and since signing for West Brom has become Pulis' most important player.

Unbeknown to Fletcher as he appealed for the corner, the referee had stopped play so that Ki could receive treatment following a clash of heads with Stephane Sessegnon. The South Korean was carried off on a stretcher with what turned out to be a minor concussion.

After the match Fletcher described the chanting as "a bit of stick" and conceded that it was "part and parcel of the game", and his manager was similarly unmoved by it.

"That's all it was, it is part of the game," said Pulis, whose side face Newcastle on Saturday.

"I'm not really convinced it's anything more than banter. Supporters pay enormous amounts of money now to come and watch football and they have the right to say what they want and do what they want.

"Darren is big enough and old enough to take that on the chin and get on with it."

And Pulis suggested that Fletcher would need to develop a thick skin should he pursue his ambition of moving into management.

He added: "The lad wants to go into coaching and management and I think eventually become a very good manager. So he'll have to get used to taking a bit of stick."

West Brom were dealt another injury blow ahead of their trip to St James' Park with the loss of Jonny Evans.

Evans limped off against Swansea with a hamstring problem and the defender will be out for at least a couple of weeks. The Northern Ireland international joins compatriot Chris Brunt (calf), James Morrison (hamstring) and Callum McManaman (ankle) on the sidelines.

Saido Berahino will be in the squad against the club who had a bid for him rejected before the transfer deadline, although Pulis says the striker is unlikely to start as he continues to build up his fitness.

Source: PAR