NEWCASTLE United haven’t won a Premier League home game at a traditional 3pm kick-off in almost two and a half years.
And captain Kevin Nolan remembers the last such success at St James’s Park well – having been on the losing side!
Nolan, then a Bolton Wanderers player, had a penalty saved by Shay Given in August, 2008, and Michael Owen came off the bench to give Newcastle, managed by Kevin Keegan, the three points.
Twelve traditional Saturday top-flight kick-offs later, Newcastle take on Bolton at St James’s Park tomorrow looking to climb above Bolton – 5-1 winners at the Reebok Stadium in November – into eighth place in the division.
“It was a great save – I’ve got to give Shay a lot of credit for it,” Nolan said. “I struck it really well, and he swung his leg round and got it.
“I always fancy myself from 12 yards. It was a disappointing day. Michael Owen came off the bench and scored, but I thought we played well that day.
“Bolton will be the same again. They’ll be high energy and get in our faces. They’ll want to upset us. They’ve got some good individual players.
“I’m looking forward to see a few old mates, and hopefully turning the result around from the hiding we got at their place.”
Back then, United fans had high hopes for the campaign under Keegan, but his dismissal set a chain of events which led to Newcastle’s relegation to the Championship.
However, with Alan Pardew’s team well-placed, and looking to consolidate their position in the top half of the table, there’s an optimism in the dressing room going into the final 11 games of the season.
“We’ve got to be looking at getting as many wins as possible on the board between now and the end of the season,” added Nolan.
“If we beat Bolton, we’ll be definitely be in the top eight, and if results go our way we could even go to the top seven. The way the two teams are playing, it could be an entertaining game.
“Hopefully, we’ll come out on top, and start pushing into that top eight now.
“It’s not a dream. It’s what could happen. It’s going to be tough – it’s a challenge.
“Some of the games we’ve lost at St James’s have been disappointing, but we’ve always had chances at St James’s because of the fans, and the fear factor of teams coming here.
“If we can make it into a fortress, we can finish in the top 10 this season, and these games are massive for us.”
H Striker Leon Best is looking forward to the game after bagging five goals from seven games.
“I’m getting a good run now,” said Best. “Compare it to last season, when the other strikers were in and taking their chances.
“Now I have to do the same as they were last season. I’ve had setbacks, but myself and Peter Lovenkrands are doing a good job now.
“The manager’s got confidence in me, and that’s a big bonus for every player.
“I’ve got my chance, but I need to keep taking it. If the chances come along, I’ve got to keep scoring them.”