Pardew eyes his magic number
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is focused on building momentum and passing the `magic' 40-point mark as he bids to ensure the Magpies' future in the Barclays Premier League, starting against Reading.
The Magpies finished fifth in the table last season but have struggled in 2012/13 and are currently fifth bottom, just two points above the relegation zone and five better than the 19th-placed Royals.
Pardew, a former manager of Reading, knows the match at St James' Park will be a real barometer of the quality in his side, who have only won once in their last nine games in all competitions and currently have just 21 of his 40-point target.
"It's an important game for us and Reading," Pardew said.
"I still think you need that magic 40 points and that will be more than enough. We're capable of getting that.
"People talk about a six pointer and all that but this actually is between us two clubs and we can't hide from that.
"We need to get that distance between us and then strengthen and all of a sudden we will look a lot more rosy than we do sitting here today."
Pardew admitted building a run of form is now vital to maintaining Newcastle's position in the top flight.
Southampton, who were in the bottom three in December, have since pieced together 10 points from their last seven games to move one point clear of the Magpies, while second-bottom Reading pulled off a remarkable late comeback against West Brom last weekend to secure their third win of the season.
Pardew said: "Momentum is very important and Southampton and Reading have picked up some momentum which is a very strong tool to have in the Premier League.
"You believe you are going to win. Even last week, Reading were 2-0 down with seven or eight minutes to go and end up winning the game (3-2).
"It was quite rare that would happen but they had the belief to get something out of it and that's what we need to gain.
"There are better teams than the one I am managing that have gone down. I could argue that QPR on paper are stronger than ours in terms of depth.
"I'm not sure about the starting XI but we haven't had the starting XI out all year. We need to strengthen, our players need to show some discipline and character and I've no doubt they will."
Pardew could welcome back defender Steven Taylor.
Taylor has returned to training after recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in November and could feature, while striker Shola Ameobi is available after he missed out last weekend through suspension.
Fabricio Coloccini looks set to continue despite continuing rumours linking him with a move back to Argentina.
Meanwhile, Stephen Kelly feared he had boarded a sinking ship when he visited the Madejski Stadium last weekend, but became convinced his new team are capable of avoiding the drop after watching Reading mount a stunning comeback against West Brom.
Kelly became Reading's third signing of the January window on Saturday when he left Fulham and signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Royals.
Reading invited the Republic of Ireland full-back to watch their game against West Brom that afternoon and, for 82 minutes, Kelly must have been thinking he had made the wrong decision.
Brian McDermott's side were 2-0 down and, with QPR having drawn with Tottenham earlier, were bottom of the Barclays Premier League, but late strikes from Jimmy Kebe, Adam Le Fondre and Pavel Pogrebnyak handed the club their most thrilling win of the season.
Given they are three points from safety with 16 games to go, Reading are still among the favourites for relegation, but Kelly thinks the shock comeback will give his new employers the drive they need to climb out of the relegation zone for good.
"After watching the game at the start it was looking a bit grim," Kelly said. "But to be able to come back, hold on, and show that kind of character and fight is exactly what you need to stay in the Premier League.
"That win has put us closer to the other teams. You look at the table and think it's not impossible.
"I am confident we can stay up. After coming here and meeting everyone affiliated with the club you realise everyone is determined to stay in the league. The determination is unbelievable.
"I want to play in the Premier League and I feel confident we are capable of doing that."
Midfielder Hope Akpan could also start his first match for the Royals following his move from Crawley.
Striker Jason Roberts (hip) and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (shoulder) are out but midfielder Mikele Leigertwood is available after recovering from an unspecified knock.