Nolan double effectively seals the deal for Magpies
A SATISFIED Chris Hughton travelled back to the North- East last night with his Newcastle side in touching distance of the Championship title after a 2-1 win over Reading at the Madejski Stadium. Kevin Nolan's first-half double left the Magpies nine points clear of second-placed West Brom with just three games remaining. They need only a draw at Plymouth next Monday to be guaranteed the Championship trophy. They won't even need that if the Baggies fail to claim all three points at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday, and provided the title is wrapped up by the time Ipswich visit St James' Park in 11 days time, the trophy will be presented in the wake of Newcastle's final home game of the season. Hughton has spent most of the last month refusing to celebrate prematurely, but even he was forced to concede his side's latest success had effectively put the title race to bed. We're very close now, said the Newcastle boss, who watched his side overcome the concession of Danny Simpson's second-half own goal to extend their current unbeaten run to 14 matches. We're going into a game at Plymouth on Monday knowing exactly what we have to do to claim the title. We've put ourselves in a great position. We're in touching distance. We might need to get something if the weekend results go against us we might not if things go the other way. Either way, we've set it up nicely with this result. It would be nice to win it down at Plymouth because it would be a fitting reward for the travelling support that has been with us every step of the way this season. It's a long, long way to Plymouth, and anyone making that trip deserves to see us finish the job there. Then, we'll have the opportunity to play in front of a sell out St James' Park crowd. Guaranteeing a trophy presentation on Tyneside was one of Newcastle's leading ambitions going into last night's game, and the 2-1 win enabled Hughton's side to close in on another of their remaining targets. The victory lifted them to 95 points for the season, and with three games to go, Newcastle's staff and players are determined to break the 100- point barrier. Throw in the opportunity to go through an entire league season unbeaten at home for the first time in 103 years, and there is still plenty to play for in the final weeks of the season. We still have ambitions, and it's good to see the players continuing to show the qualities they have displayed right throughout the season, said Hughton. Getting to 100 points is a target for us, and having won promotion last week, it's all about pursuing those other targets that remain. The title is obviously the most important one, but we have a points total we'd like to get to in mind and we all want to keep the unbeaten home run going for one more match. Nolan's first-half double was the decisive factor in last night's game, with the former Bolton midfielder scoring his 17th and 18th of the season. The brace lifted him back above Andy Carroll to the top of the goalscoring charts, and underlined why he was recently voted Championship Player of the Season. Kevin's been fantastic, said Hughton. You always know that if he gets into the positions, he'll score goals. He has a composure about him and always tries to get into the box. He's been playing for a team that have created a lot of chances for him this season, and there's probably nobody better at breaking into the box on a regular basis.
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