Newcastle United v Bolton, TOTT Preview
After a run of mid table games for the Toon, here comes one with some significance. A win against Bolton guarantees a potential Inter Toto position. If Sunderland fail to win at Everton, a potential Europa League spot is in sight.
Having won at Birmingham last weekend, Pardew brings his squad back to St James` Park looking for his 2nd home win and his first against a top half side, at least if you discount his miraculous result against Liverpool during his first 24 hours with the squad. Such a victory would take him to his highest position since taking over from Chris Hughton, who peaked at 5th.
Pitting his wits against Pardew will be Owen Coyle, a managerial novice in the Premier League with this probably his first full season in the top flight with the same club. He is a mere couple of dozen top flight games behind his experienced opponent, leaving Burnley a margin above the drop zone, and pulling Bolton to respectability, former Newcastle wide man Megson having left them perilously poised.
Coyle has been something of a revelation, transforming Bolton`s style into cavalier adventurers. The team he had inherited might most flatteringly be described as dour, a vast improvement on the bland cure to insomnia provided by a previous incumbent of both clubs, Sam Allardyce.
It will be remembered that in November, Coyle`s side inflicted Newcastle`s worst away defeat since at Old Trafford back in January 2008. At that stage, the manger, Hughton, had failed to be backed by the club`s board and owner in appointing a replacement coach.
This Newcastle side have been reinvigorated by an assistant with pedigree. As this week, Pardew revealed that he has taken responsibility for the defence which conceded 4 against Arsenal, Pardew confirmed that Carver was responsible for the midfield and attack which scored 4 - against Arsenal.
Compared with the team which lost at the Reebock, there will probably be 5 changes, the first being Harper back in goal, seeking to extend his run of clean sheets to 3. In front of him will be the familiar back 4 of Simpson, Enrique, Williamson and Coloccini, Steve Taylor on standby. Colo had of course been sent off by Newcastle nemesis, Howard Webb.
The twin scouse motivators of Barton and Nolan were not both available for the Reebock game, Joey`s place having gone to the venerable but increasingly pedestrian Alan Smith. Nolan will surely seek revenge on his old club seeking to end his longest barren run since the start of last season with what would be his 50th Premier League goal, and how fitting it would be to score against his former team. Tiote will be buoyant after signing a new contract extension. Jonas seems to be finding his best form with John Carver.
Problems loom up front, with Lovenkrands facing a fitness test but hoping to start. 5 goals in 7 starts, Leon Best is a certainty with the option of Guthrie slotting into midfield if Pardew opts for a 4-5-1. Ranger would love a home Premier League full debut, as would Kuqi, whose last Premier League start was over 3 years go on loan at Fulham before being dropped - against Newcastle. His last Premier league goal was almost 5 years ago.
Bolton`s side have failed to win away since that home victory, each of their subsequent away games ending in defeat. Those 7 matches have seen only 2 goals scored with 9 against and no points. Jaaskalainen returns to try and keep the Toon at bay in place of Bogdan.
In defence, Ricketts continues to miss out, with an imposing back line of Smoggy Wheater, hot English prospect Cahill, young Spaniard Alonso and the significantly smaller Paul Robinson at left back.
Midfield carries some familiar threats, not least in former Arsenal protégé Muamba. Veteran wide man, Petrov provides a familiar presence, with the industrious Korean, Lee Chung-Yong on the opposite flank. Scottish born American, Stuart Holden is a creative influence in the middle.
It is up front that the contrast comes with the home team. Kevin Davies is seemingly undroppable, with Klasnic having made his mark in the last 2 FA Cup matches. A pair of potential Toon targets are also available, in the shape of Chelsea loanee, Sturridge who has scored in his last 3 games, and summer free agent Elmander who terrorized the home defence when down at the Reebock.
The man with the whistle is Chris Foy, also from the North West, in his case Merseyside. Despite a Hughton away win at West Ham, his two games for the Toon against North West opposition have yielded 2 defeats, to go with a history of poor results for Newcastle against North West sides. The redeeming factor is Bolton`s defeat at Sunderland when Foy was in charge earlier this season.
History favours Newcastle, with a defeat in October 2006 being the only reverse in this fixture during the Premier League years. Before that, we have to go back to the 1950s for a Bolton win, a decade which saw them win 6 times at St James`.
Although the last top flight score draw was 1949, this could be a good bet today, with odds generally favouring a home win. Nolan`s 50th Premier League goal against his former club will attract some money, and it will be hard to see the visiting strikers failing to score. A 2 goal margin has only been achieved once in the Premier League years.
Newcastle v Bolton at St James`
P59 W37 D8 L14 F116 A60
P10 W7 D2 L1 F15 A8
Newcastle (from): Harper, Krul, Simpson, Perch, R Taylor, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, Campbell, S Taylor, Tiote, Barton, Nolan, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Richardson, Lovenkrands, Best, Ranger, Kuqi.
Bolton (from): Jaaskelainen, Robinson, Cahill, Wheater, Muamba, Petrov, K Davies, Elmander, Klasnic, Taylor, Alonso, Rodrigo, M Davies, Cohen, Holden, Steinsson, Blake, Lee, Sturridge, Bogdan.