CHRIS HUGHTON last night warned his Newcastle United players that their failure to overcome Queens Park Rangers at St James’ Park was a “big reminder” of the real fight they face to gain promotion back to the Premier League.
Marlon Harewood emerged from the bench to score a 70th minute equaliser on his home debut for the Magpies to prevent a second league defeat of the season.
The point means that Newcastle are now three points clear of second placed West Brom and five ahead of third placed Preston after nine matches.
But having come close to losing against a QPR side that could have extended the early advantage given to them by Ben Watson, Hughton has told his players to use the experience as a learning curve.
“We were up against a QPR team in good form, looking good and they could hurt us,”
said Hughton, who also saw Danny Guthrie miss a first half penalty. “They are as good as what we have played this season. It is a big reminder, it is something we keep stressing.
“Ipswich might have ended up comfortable for us on Saturday but most of the games we have played we have had to work hard to get results.
“It’s a big reminder for anyone of the quality of this league and the number of games we play that are going to be hard for us. We are up against Championship hardened teams, it’s tough.”
While there was disappointment following the performance and result, there was also satisfaction that Harewood scored his first goal for the club.
The 30-year-old signed on loan from Aston Villa earlier this month and this was only his second appearance.
His goal, a close range finish when he bundled over the line an Andy Carroll flick on, was the first he had scored since October last year, when he was on target in the 1-1 UEFA Cup draw with Litex Lovetch.
And Hughton said: “The reason we brought him here was for his experience and that he is different to what we have.
“We know he can make an impact and he has in both games. He will get even stronger.
“What he is apart from his qualities, he is a lad who has been around for a while and played at big clubs. He is used to this type of arena and atmosphere.
“Whatever has gone on before I’m not aware of, what I do know is that he was excited about coming by here and wanted to play. He just wants to score goals.”
QPR manager Jim Magilton had no complaints about the result, despite seeing his team outplay Newcastle for long periods of the match. Magilton, whose side are two points adrift of the top six, was encouraged by his team’s performance and just hopes to run Newcastle close come the end of the season.
“A draw was fair, they had a dubious penalty saved,” said the former Northern Ireland captain. “It’ll give the players confidence. We are capable of matching anyone in the division.
“We play Newcastle on the last day of the season, so who knows? We showed our intent to take it to them. I think it’s going to be a division that is going to be close.
“You look at their ability, their squad, if you finish above them you will be very close.”