Out-of-form Nolan is not under threat

16 February 2010 08:48
CHRIS HUGHTON has given out-of-sorts Kevin Nolan his full backing by predicting Newcastle United's leading goalscorer will recapture his best form in time to strengthen the club's promotion push.

While Nolan's preferred position might still be as a central midfielder, his 11 goals this season have arrived on the back of more licence to push forward to support the strikers or operate as a forward.

But having not found the net since the Boxing Day draw at Sheffield Wednesday, his all-round performances have come under scrutiny.

After a below-par outing at Swansea on Saturday it even led to suggestions that his place in the starting line-up might be under threat.

However, while admitting he would make alternations if poor performances become more regular from any of his players, Hughton insists dropping Nolan has not even entered his head.

The Newcastle boss said: You have to think about your options for all of your positions, but have I thought about resting Kevin The answer is no because he's a big player and valuable player. We do have competition for places he's the same as everybody.

Nicky Butt will be back soon, Joey Barton will be a bit longer and falls into that midfielder category, so we do have options but resting Kevin hasn't been a thought.

It wasn't one of Kevin's better games at Swansea, but the stats show he did as much running as he normally does.

His physical contribution was no different but as with every player there are ups and downs in form.

Kevin is very capable of turning his next game into one of his better ones. He's been a big, big player for us.

Apart from his actual contribution to the team he has scored a lot of goals. He is very much part of the squad and falls into the same selections process as everyone.

Nolan clearly remains in Hughton's thoughts for tomorrow's Championship match with Coventry City at St James' Park, when Jonas Gutierrez will return after a thigh problem.

By that time West Brom could have overtaken them at the top of the division if they win at Cardiff tonight, with third-placed Nottingham Forest looking to close a fourpoint gap against Sheffield United.

But Newcastle forward Peter Lovenkrands will not be taking too much of what happens elsewhere into account before facing Coventry.

I think it's quite important that we're back to level games now and we're still top of the league by one point. I think it will prove to be a very important point, said Lovenkrands.

For us the most important thing is to focus on ourselves and the game we play, then just see what happens with the other teams. As long as we focus on ourselves, we can't really do any more than that.

It's up to us other teams to worry about us.

Newcastle lead the race to the Premier League despite failing to win away from Tyneside in 2010, putting further pressure on emerging as winners from their home matches.

We just need to keep going.

There's no point us getting our heads down. We're top of the league and we've got two home games coming up, said Lovenkrands, mindful of the weekend visit of Preston.

We'll try to get three points from both those home games, but it's not just about the home games.

Barton is unlikely to return to action for a couple more weeks but Hughton revealed yesterday the midfielder has returned to training after a long-lay-off.

He has not played since September after picking up a foot injury. Hughton said: His involvement in training has been a bit part. We would like to think he can play a part in the last games we have.

He has to get to full fitness first. He will give us competition for places. We have a group of lads that have been important for us this season.

If Joey can add to that then that would be a plus for us.

Newcastle's trip to Reading has been rearranged for a second time. It will now take place on Tuesday, April 13, at 8pm.

Source: Northern_Echo