Sport Soccer

Sunday 23 July 2017

Nolan happy to sing Hughton’s praises

NEWCASTLE 3
Lovenkrands 3, Nolan 55, Taylor 90
PRESTON NORTH END 0

Rob Stewart

Newcastle midfielder delighted Toon boss is finally getting credit he deserves, writes Rob Stewart

KEVIN NOLAN was pleasantly surprised when Newcastle fans started chanting Chris Hughton’s name, but wondered why it had taken more than half a season for them to pay homage.

The Newcastle midfielder insisted his manager fully deserved the plaudits that cascaded from the St James’ Park stands for the first time as his team consolidated their grip on top spot in the Championship.

“We were talking the other day about the fact the fans have not really sung the manager’s name,” Nolan said. “So it is great that Chris is getting the recognition he deserves and it is something we would like to see more of. It is fantastic to hear.

“But I can’t have a go at the fans because they have been brilliant all season.”

Peter Lovenkrands put Newcastle on course for victory before Nolan, the club’s leading scorer with 12 goals, struck for the first time since St Stephen’s Day shortly after the interval and Ryan Taylor wrapped up the win in stoppage-time.

“It’s a bit of a race to be top scorer but I don’t mind,” Nolan said.

“Everyone is trying to make something of the fact that a midfielder is top scorer now. The strikers are all biting at me. It is more important to them that they overtake me than it is for me to stay ahead of them.”

Preston manager Darren Ferguson also paid tribute to Hughton for his team’s “work ethic” and said “people in football understand the good job he has done”, but raised doubts about long-term job security.

“If a manager takes you up he deserves a chance to stay in charge – mind you, it didn’t happen to me at Peterborough,” he said.

Ferguson’s team have been struggling but the outstanding performance of striker Jon Parkin gave him cause for optimism.

“He is technically very good and in the last four games he has been magnificent,” Ferguson said. “If we get performances like that, we will be OK.”

The afternoon began ominously for the visitors when Newcastle, who headed into the game having won 16 of the 18 matches in which they have scored first, opened the scoring after Lovenkrands cross from the left-hand side of the box looped over Preston keeper Andy Lonergan and into the top corner.

North End refused to be fazed after falling behind and nearly levelled matters after 16 minutes when John Parkin fired in a rasping leftfooted strike from close range that Newcastle keeper Steve Harper instinctively fended away.

Newcastle countered strongly and came close doubling their lead when Alan Smith’s volley from outside the area was smartly turned away by Lonergan, the Preston keeper producing an even better save to repel Mike Williamson’s point-blank header from the resulting corner.

At the other end, and in the dying seconds of the half, the ever-dangerous Parkin cracked in a superb volley that flew inches wide of Harper’s far post, while Andy Carroll forced Lonergan into a save early in the second half after a neat turn and shot.

Newcastle continued look the more threatening and finally extended their advantage shortly before the hour when Nolan exchanged passes in the box with Smith and side-footed past Lonergan.

Preston nearly grabbed a late consolation when Ross Wallace’s deflected free-kick spun wide of Harper’s post, with Taylor compounding their misery in stoppagetime when he lashed home from six yards out following Fabrice Pancrate’s cross.

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