Best And Ranger's Miraculous Recovery
Newcastle strikers Leon Best and Nile Ranger will be fit to take their places in the squad for tomorrow's Barclays Premier League trip to Blackburn. Best withdrew from the Republic of Ireland squad with a tight hamstring, while Ranger did not report for duty with England Under-20s because of a back problem, but both men will be available at Ewood Park. They will be joined in the squad by new recruit Shefki Kuqi, who signed a short-term deal yesterday, while Shola Ameobi hopes to return from a fractured cheekbone in as little as three weeks' time after being fitted for a protective mask. Central defender Steven Taylor will return to training after a hamstring injury on Monday, while loan signing Stephen Ireland continues his recovery from the knee problem he picked up while with Aston Villa. Ryan Taylor (ankle), Dan Gosling (knee), Alan Smith (ankle) and Hatem Ben Arfa (broken leg) remain on the sidelines. NEWCASTLE (from): Harper, Krul, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, Campbell, Tiote, Barton, Nolan, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Richardson, Lovenkrands, Best, Ranger, Kuqi. Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz returns to the Rovers' squad for the visit of the Magpies. The Paraguay international has missed the last two matches with a groin injury but has now fully recovered. Defender Gael Givet (groin) is still not fit, although utility player Phil Jones' rehabilitation from a knee operation is ahead of schedule and he is set for a possible return in April. January signings Mauro Formica, who arrived from Argentinian side Newell Old Boys, and Ruben Rochina, from Barcelona, are still a few weeks away from featuring as they continue their integration into the squad. BLACKBURN (from): Robinson, Salgado, Samba, Nelsen, Olsson, Hoilett, Andrews, J Jones, Dunn, MB Diouf, Santa Cruz, Pedersen, Bunn, Hanley, Emerton, Nzonzi, Grella, Benjani, Roberts, Kalinic. BLACKBURN CURRENT FORM ... Wigan 4 Blackburn 3FEBRUARY 5: Barclays Premier League at the DW Stadium. Blackburn 0 Tottenham 1FEBRUARY 2: Barclays Premier League at Ewood Park. Aston Villa 3 Blackburn 1JANUARY 29: FA Cup fourth round at Villa Park. Blackburn 2 West Brom 0JANUARY 23: Barclays Premier League at Ewood Park. Chelsea 2 Blackburn 0JANUARY 15: Barclays Premier League at Stamford Bridge. Blackburn 1 QPR 0JANUARY 8: FA Cup third round at Ewood Park. BLACKBURN'S LAST FIXTURE ... Wigan 4 Blackburn 3 Blackburn Robinson, Salgado, Samba, Nelsen, Olsson, Emerton (Dunn 60), Jermaine Jones (Nzonzi 78), Pedersen,Hoilett, Mwaruwari (Diouf 60), Roberts. Subs Not Used: Bunn, Grella, Andrews, Hanley. James McCarthy scored twice in a thrilling encounter at the DW Stadium as Wigan ended their eight-game winless run in the Barclays Premier League to climb out of the bottom three. The hosts were second best for much of the first half and Blackburn deservedly took the lead through Jason Roberts only for James McCarthy to draw Wigan level 10 minutes before half-time. The game really got going in the second half as Hugo Rodallega and McCarthy put the Latics two goals ahead before Christopher Samba pulled one back. Ben Watson and David Dunn then netted a penalty apiece as Wigan held on for a priceless victory. Wigan welcomed back captain Antolin Alcaraz after three weeks out injured and Victor Moses was also handed a rare start, while Blackburn included Brett Emerton after he returned from Asian Cup duty with Australia. Rovers have looked a decent outfit under Steve Kean and were hoping to get back to winning ways after successive defeats at the hands of Aston Villa and Tottenham. And it was certainly the visitors who provided most of the attacking threat in the early stages as Ali Al Habsi was forced to repel a barrage of balls fired into his box. The Latics keeper also did well to keep out a fierce free-kick from Morten Gamst Pedersen, while Wigan relied mostly on set-pieces and counter-attacks. So it was no surprise when Rovers took the lead in the 23rd minute through former Latics striker Roberts. A lovely ball from Junior Hoilett found Emerton in acres of space down the right and he took the ball to the byline before pulling it back for Roberts, who could not miss from three yards. Rovers continued to press and Benjani Mwaruwari should have done better with a header in front of goal from another terrific delivery by Pedersen, but in the 35th minute Wigan shocked their opponents by drawing level. Victor Moses did brilliantly to jink into the box and set up Emmerson Boyce for a shot that was saved by Paul Robinson, but the rebound fell for McCarthy, who tucked the ball away from a tight angle. The pitch was cutting up very badly in the rain, but that did not stop Rodallega giving Wigan the lead less than five minutes into the second half. Moses' flick-on from Al Habsi's goal-kick caught out Samba, allowing Rodallega a run on goal, and the Colombian neatly sidestepped Robinson before slotting in a precise finish. There was no doubt which team was on top now and six minutes later Wigan netted their third courtesy of some brilliant skill by McCarthy. Charles N'Zogbia was central to the goal, the midfielder first seeing a shot well saved by Robinson and then picking up the rebound. N'Zogbia eventually played in McCarthy, who juggled the ball from right to left foot before guiding a shot just inside the far post. Just when Wigan seemed to have taken a stranglehold on the game, though, Blackburn pulled one back, and it could not have been simpler as Pedersen's corner picked out the head of the towering Samba. The defender's goal came less than two minutes after McCarthy's strike, but incredibly they found themselves facing a two-goal deficit again in the 65th minute. Rovers' complaints were understandable as Michel Salgado was adjudged to have tripped Mohamed Diame just inside the area, but Watson exploited the situation fully by sending Robinson the wrong way from the penalty spot. Two minutes later Tom Cleverley replaced Moses for his first appearance after a month out injured, with Blackburn bringing on Mame Biram Diouf and David Dunn. Diouf had a decent opportunity to reduce Rovers' arrears when he found space on the right of the area but he was closed down quickly by a mass of Wigan defenders and could only shoot wide. Blackburn did manage a third in the 81st minute, though, and again it came from the penalty spot. Boyce lunged in recklessly on Dunn and the substitute picked himself up to slot the spot-kick beyond the outstretched arm of Al Habsi. Rovers pushed hard for an equaliser through five minutes of injury time but this time Wigan stood firm to hold onto the three points that lifted them out of the relegation zone.
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