Writer: Ross Molyneux
Date:Friday February 23 2007
After the memorable 2-1 win last two weeks ago against the City of Self Pity`s finest, Newcastle head to the JJB buoyed by fresh faces, two wins in Europe and a clean sheet to boot. Paul Jewell`s team lie in wait, still smarting after some pretty minging refereeing decisions against them in their last two games and in desperate need of a home win to put them pretty much out of sight of Charlton, West Ham and Watford.
Earlier in the season when the two sides met at SJP it was again a narrow game, with Scott Parker putting us ahead before McCulloch levelled. Shola then stole in with a tidy leaping finish before Denny Landzaat missed a chance at the death to equalise for Wigan. Last year at the JJB saw now mackem David Connolly notch an 88th minute penalty as Wigan reserves dumped us out of the Carling Cup, as the realisation that Souness was a total charlatan really sunk in. In the league Jason Roberts scored to set up another 1-0 loss.
'Obafemi Martins has been a terrific buy, I feel whatever he achieves this year will be a bonus. Next year after he has had a full season with us and we have Michael Owen and Shola Ameobi fit and new signings, he will take off in a big way.
Week by week, Oba is building a big reputation as a striker to fear.'
Jewell has spent the two weeks since our last Premiership game on a one-man crusade to rid the Premier League of Phil Dowd, accusing him of everything from swearing at his players to being hated by his fellow referees, even suggesting someone in the Refs Union had been slipping the miserable Scouser £20 to help pay for his appeal against one of their own. In my humblest that makes Sunday a shoo-in for either a Wigan penalty or a dodgy offside decision to 'even the score` and get Jewell singing the officials` praises. Moving on…
As for Wigan they`ll feel slightly aggrieved after their man-in-the-middle induced headaches of late. Two weeks ago Dowd caused all the controversy at the Emirates as he failed to give a penalty following a Heskey tumble in the box. Arsenal broke up the other end and scored and, to rub salt into the wound, the linesman missed an offside in the build up to the Gooner`s last minute winner.
Blockbuster shots and a signing from our next UEFA Cup opponents AZ Alkmaar.
Newcastle welcome back Scotty Parker, Shay Given and the Gooch to the squad but face late fitness tests on Babayaro and Sibierski, who are both nursing tight hamstrings. Baba has also had the small matter of his brother's funeral to contend with, meaning a double assessment as Glenn checks out his left back`s mental state. Personally I thought we struggled without Sibierski`s link up play last night, with Luque little more than an empty shirt up front. Expect a five man midfield from the gaffer however as we try and shut up shop and break like we did at the Emirates back in October.
Just like against Arsenal his pace on the break is going to be our main weapon.
Predicted line up: Given, Solano, Taylor, Onyewu, Babayaro, Milner, Butt, Parker, Duff, Dyer, Martins.
With the backing of over 5,000 Newcastle fans we`re hoping for a bit of a performance from the lads on the road, especially after the dross we managed against Fulham in our last away game in the league. With Wigan fired up though I`m predicting a 1-1 draw, with Wigan`s goal coming though a disputed penalty.
Date:Friday February 23 2007
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