Writer: Ross Molyneux
Date:Wednesday February 21 2007
St James Park
Last week`s main event over in Belgium was a bit of a damp squib to be honest. Without being overly patronising, Waregem would have struggled to give North Shields a game. On a pitch cut to ribbons, with spaces evident all over the stands, it wasn`t exactly a showpiece event for the UEFA`s junior tournament. In fairness the same will probably repeat itself on Thursday night.
Despite rumours that the Intertoto Cup will be presented pre-match ticket sales have been sluggish for this one. Whether it`s the fact that we`ve got a comfortable lead, the game is on terrestrial TV or people just don`t fancy it against pub team opposition, it looks as if St James will only be half-full by 7:45pm. The gaffer has promised to turn out his strongest available side, with only Gooch cup-tied and Parker a doubt with a hamstring injury. On a personal level Parker shouldn`t even be an option. Rest the lad until Wigan this weekend to let it fully heal and keep with Dyer and Butt in the middle of the park. Elsewhere I`d keep Milner in for Nobby and rest the Peruvian wizard for the weekend.
From a long-term perspective I`d like to see the likes of Carroll and Lua-Lua given longer than the statutory two minute subs appearances Glenn has been giving them. After a week of tub-thumping about how great our academy is, why not give us a chance to see the results for real? If Kazenga really is the next Gazza (God help his liver if he is…) then surely second tier opposition like these would be a good starting point for a run out.
"We will be playing the strongest side available to us. Oguchi Onyewu is not eligible, and this leaves us to look at the situation regarding Scott Parker and his hamstring problem. It is touch-and-go whether he makes it tomorrow night, but if he does not then it will be 100% certain he will play against Wigan Athletic on Sunday.
Zulte scoring an early goal is not in my assessment of how things will go tomorrow night. What is in my assessment is that we keep a clean sheet and build on our lead from the first leg. We have to defend set-pieces properly and be the first to the ball. This is what we have been working on in training this week.'
Parker doubtful, Gooch Onyewu cup-tied, Milner one booking away from suspension.
Surely a chance for our top scorer to fill his boots against this lot? Big Al's 20 goals a season benchmark seems really attainable if he keeps up his current form.
2-0 losers at the weekend - nothing much else has come over the North Sea ahead of their visit. Written off as no-hopers by just about every media outlet. Birmingham 5-1 anyone? (Not likely)
Possessing a girl's name, he scored against us in the first leg. Little else really to say about him/them generally.
Previous European home games v Belgian teams:
1969/70 Anderlecht won 3-1 (Fairs Cup)
1994/95 Antwerp won 5-2 (UEFA Cup)
2001/02 Lokeren won 1-0 (Intertoto Cup)
N Ibanov (Russia)
The Belgians lost 2-0 at the weekend to Cercle Brugge in the Jupiler League. I`m going to go one better and tip a 3-0 home win.
Premier League: Wigan (Away) Sunday 1pm KO.
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Date:Wednesday February 21 2007
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