When last our fearless Mags faced Roy Hodgson's West Bromwich Albion squad, things did not end up too well for our heroes. The score was tied 2-2 heading into the final 5 minutes of regulation time only for Newcastle to concede THAT goal. It was the type of the goal that we will all remember from this season- a shot goes on goal, bounces off of a defender only to fall directly to an attacking player to tuck easily into the Magpie net. On this instance, the beneficiary of the unkind bounce was Paul Scharner who made no mistake and took the full three points away from St. James' Park.
The first match was also notable for another reason - Haris Vuckic was given the start in place of Yohan Cabaye in midfield (instead of Danny Guthrie or Dan Gosling or even Alan Smith for that matter). He would acquit himself pretty well in the match, which is more than the defense could claim, beaten twice by the (RUN REAL DAMN FAST!)™ technique prior to conceding the final goal.
Newcastle will be looking at this match as an opportunity - not to overlook West Brom in any manner at all, but if the Mags can take all three points on offer away from The Hawthornes, they will leave level on points with Chelsea in fifth place with 8 matches left to play in the season (they will, of course, be 6th place still on goal differential).
- The road has had its challenges for Newcastle this year. With 18 points from 14 road matches, it can't be said that their road form is atrocious, but this much is certain: Newcastle have yet to come back from conceding the first goal in a match to take the full three points at the end of the match. Point: Don't let WBA score first.
- Goals happen in this fixture. In fact, neither side has managed to keep a clean sheet in the last 8 contests between the two (least of all Newcastle, who have conceded 3 in each of the last three meetings). In fact, the average goal haul over those same 8 matches is nearly 4.5 (If you're a bettor and you took the over last time, you'd have hit). If either side can keep a clean sheet or perhaps even hold the other to one goal, they're in with a shout. Point: Don't let WBA score.
- Dear Tim Krul, Please please please be well. I know the scans have all come back clean, but please be healthy for the match. If we have to play Rob Elliott, I fear we may lose. A lot. Point: Don't let Rob Elliott start.
- Papiss Cisse has now scored 3 goals since joining the club in the January window, but none of them have come away from the friendly confines of St. James' Park. On a related note, Demba Ba is scoreless in Newcastle's last three matches. Point: It would be useful if at least one of our Senegalese strikers scored.
- Since the 3-2 match in December, West Brom have scored first in only 5 of 12 matches; Newcastle have scored first in 10 of 12 matches since then. Point: Once again, Don't let WBA score first.
Newcastle United FC
6th place 14-8-8, 50 points
Out: Steven Taylor (Achilles), Sylvain Marveaux (groin), Leon Best (knee), Sammy Ameobi (knee), Peter Lovenkrands (thigh), Ryan Taylor (calf)
Doubtful: Cheik Tiote (hamstring)
Probable: Danny Simpson (aductor strain), Krul (hamstring)
Projected XI: Krul | Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini (C), Perch | HBA, Guthrie, Cabaye, Jonas | Ba, Cisse
Projected Subs: Elliott, Santon, Gosling, Ferguson, Vuckic, Obertan, Shola
West Bromwich Albion FC
14th place 10-6-13, 36 points
Out: Gera (knee), Reid (foot)
Probable: Odemwingie (hamstring)
Projected XI: Foster | Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell | Thomas, Scharner, Mulumbu, Morrison | Odemwingie, Long
Projected Subs: Daniels, Tamas, Fortune, Cox, Brunt, Andrews, Dorrans
It could be a game of milestones- West Brom midfielder is looking set to make his 200th Premier League appearance, while on the other side of the pitch, Newcastle United will be looking to become only the eighth team to surpass the 1,000 point mark in Premier League history. The Mags sit on 999 points, so a draw or victory would see Newcastle join Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Everton and Tottenham as the only clubs to have reached 1,000.
What is definitely not going to occur
I'm slightly encouraged that we were able to take a rather discouraging reverse from the first half of the season and prevent a team (Norwich) from beating us the same way they did the last time. In the first meeting with West Brom, James Perch was deployed as a centre-half due to injuries. At the time we would have all sworn that Mike Williamson was a better option... we're now left hoping that he is on the heels of a couple of unconvincing performances on the trot from our now-incumbent partner to Captain Colo. Speed scares the crap out of me with our current defensive line, but I'm going to put faith in Pardew that we'll learn just enough from the first match to be dangerous. I shall prognosticate now:
West Bromwich Albion 0 - 2 Newcastle United
Ba scores both for the Toon (as he did in the first match), one in the first half and an excuse me second late in the second half.