Newcastle boss anxious to avoid hat-trick of home defeats
CHRIS Hughton admits his Newcastle side have to address their misfiring home form before it becomes a cause for major concern. Having gone through the whole of last season unbeaten on Tyneside, the Magpies picked up where they had left off with a 6-0 victory over Aston Villa in their opening home fixture. Since then, they have slipped to disappointing defeats by Blackpool and Stoke, results that have sent them tumbling to 15th in the Premier League table and ratcheted up the pressure ahead of today's home game with Wigan. Hughton insists it is far too early to set the alarm bells ringing, but admits his players cannot afford to complete a hat-trick of failures this afternoon. With Blackpool, you couldn't fault the amount of opportunities we created, said the manager. Nine times out of ten, we'd win that. Stoke was more disappointing, having gone a goal up, but we were caught by two set plays. The stadium became a bit of a fortress for us last season, so we're conscious our home form has to improve and we have a chance to do that this weekend. It's the sort of game we want to win. We're at home on the back of two defeats, so that's something we need to put right. Wigan are a talented side, making progress this season, and we can't afford to underestimate them. But we're at home with another big support, and we want to win. One of Hughton's toughest decisions this afternoon will relate to his formation and starting line-up. Andy Carroll will replace Shola Ameobi after starting on the bench at the City of Manchester Stadium earlier this month. But Hughton must decide whether to pair the Under-21 international with another centre-forward or stick with the 4-5-1 formation that has proved so productive away from home. Peter Lovenkrands, in particular, has been unfortunate not to have had more involvement this season, but his promotion to the starting line-up might necessitate the relegation of Kevin Nolan to the substitutes' bench. That is something Hughton has appeared extremely reluctant to countenance so far. With the quality of this league, you've got to be aware of the opponent you're playing against and try to get the right tactics for each game, he said. That will vary for each game, but at home we need to be showing that little bit more. Peter's not done so much wrong and he's been fit and available, it's just been a decision I have to make. I'm conscious he's there pushing for a place, though, and that's what I need him to keep doing.
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