Sunday 18 March 2018

Newcastle out of drop zone

Newcastle Utd 1-0 West Brom

Newcastle United's Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates scoring his side's winning goal. Photo: PA
Newcastle United's Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates scoring his side's winning goal. Photo: PA
West Bromwich Albion's James Chester (left) and Newcastle United's Georginio Wijnaldum battle for the ball. Photo: PA
Newcastle United's Andros Townsend crosses the ball as West Bromwich Albion's James Chester attempts to block. Photo: PA

Damian Spellman

Beleaguered Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren saluted his patched-up team after seeing them climb out of the relegation zone with this victory.

Aleksandar Mitrovic's 32nd-minute strike settled a game the Magpies might have won much more comfortably, and the 1-0 win, coupled with Norwich's defeat at Aston Villa, eased them into 17th place in the table. They remain just a point clear of the drop zone, but McClaren is confident Newcastle now have a foundation upon which to build.

"The three points are enormous. We said, 'If we win today, we'll get out of the bottom three', which is important. But you have to gather the points," said McClaren.

"This was a patched-up team, especially the defence, and we know - and I am hoping and I believe - that we will get stronger as the season comes to an end. Our squad will get stronger and better when we get people fit and defenders back.

"But the heroes today were the likes of Steven Taylor, Cheick Tiote and Rolando Aarons, who we threw in really and were probably not ready, but through cramp and everything got through 90 minutes."

Taylor had not played a competitive game since August because of a hamstring injury, while Tiote might have left the club for Shanghai Shenhua last month and winger Aarons was asked to line up at left-back with McClaren having only three fit defenders.

Newcastle created more than enough chances to win the game long before the final whistle, but had to tough it out through a final five minutes which McClaren later admitted felt like "five hours".

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