Sheffield United v Newcastle, Championship, November 2, 2009
Second-placed Newcastle travel to Brammall Lane on Monday night hoping to take confidence from their 2-1 win over Doncaster last weekend which came after a worrying run in the Championship. With just two wins in their last six games, newly appointed full-time boss Chris Hughton will be desperate to pick up more points for the Toon as they look to cement their position at the top of the division.
As has been the case for sometime on Tyneside, Newcastle fans head into their match with their minds focused on their off-the-field issues. Last week, hated-owner Mike Ashley announced his decision to take the club off the market so that he can continue his much-unloved ownership of the club, while inciting even more fans the Magpies by stating that the club’s naming rights for St. James’ Park were now up for grabs.
This has led to more accusations being levelled at Ashely, with fans bemoaning that after watching on as Newcastle lost their Premier League status, their best players, and their dignity, Ashley now wants to rip to shreds Unitedâ€™s 100-year tradition.
Be that as it may, on the field Newcastle also have headaches ahead of their tough trip to Sheffield. Hughton remains without long term absentees Joey Barton and Shola Ameobi, both out with foot injuries. However Fabricio Coloccini (8/1 to score) is expected to return after missing last weekend’s game against Donny, while Danny Simpson (ankle) and Steven Taylor (hamstring) are both pushing to return.
Elsewhere, the Toon saw defender Zurub Khizanishvili red carded in the letter stages of their game with Rovers and will be suspended for their trip to Bramall Lane.
Nevertheless, Newcastle will be able to put out a starting eleven with a wealth of experience, particularly in the final third. Jonas Gutierrez (20/1 to score first & Newcastle win), Nicky Butt, Danny Guthrie, Kevin Nolan (16/5 to score & Newcastle win), Andy Carroll and Marlon Harewood (6/1 to score first) should all play from the start, while the backline will be marshalled by Ryan Taylor, Jose Enrique with Steve Harper between the posts.
For once Newcastle go into a game with more available players than their opponents. Sheffield United are struggling with injuries they look to be without, Jamie Ward (wrist), Derek Geary (knee), Gary Naysmith (knee), James Harper (knee), Nick Montgomery (medial ligaments), Andrew Davies (knee) and Lee Williamson (back).
Of those fielded by manager Kevin Blackwell, one player who will be keenly watched will be United centre-half Matthew Kilgallon (14/1 to score & United win). Rumours are rife that the Magpies are readying themselves for a move for Kilgallon in the transfer window, with reports suggesting that the defender could be available for Â£2.5m.
Further forward, Darius Henderson (14/1 to score a brace) will be the hosts main goal-threat having netted five times already this campaign, while Ched Evans (three in fourteen), Richard Cresswell (one in three) and David Cotterill (two in thirteen) offer alternative options.
Without a win in six games, including four defeats in the process, the Blades will have it all to do to claim maximum points against Newcastle.
101gg predicts: Sheffield United 0 – Newcastle 1 (6/1)
Full match odds here.