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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Eddie Howe and Newcastle to battle on despite mounting injury problems

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Football

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Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has vowed not to give up on the race for European football in the face of a seemingly unending injury crisis.

The Magpies boosted their hopes of securing a top six finish with Saturday’s remarkable 4-3 victory over West Ham, a game in which they trailed 3-1 with just 13 minutes remaining.

It came at a cost, though, with skipper Jamaal Lascelles rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, an injury which could sideline him for up to nine months.

Lascelles is Howe’s latest long-term casualty, but as he prepared for Tuesday night’s home clash with Everton, the head coach was refusing to throw in the towel.

He said: “There was always that feeling that the season was alive but, of course, you have to win games and the more you don’t win, the more the season slips away very quickly.

“We know the quality of the league and we know how difficult it is to win consistently, but that’s what we’re chasing now.”

Lascelles’ misfortune represents a huge blow, coming less than a fortnight after fellow central defender Sven Botman was ruled out for a similar period with a similar injury.

It is the latest long-term injury blow for a club which has suffered more than its fair share this season.

Keeper Nick Pope – who is still sidelined – and frontman Jacob Murphy have dislocated shoulders, defender Dan Burn broke a bone in his back, Joelinton damaged a thigh tendon, Joe Willock sat out extended periods with hamstring and Achilles injuries and striker Callum Wilson is currently recovering from pectoral muscle surgery.

Harvey Barnes, whose two goals as a substitute on Saturday ultimately saw off the Hammers, spent four and a half months in the treatment room with a toe injury before his return to action last month, while Emil Krafth, Matt Targett and Elliot Anderson, as well as the suspended Sandro Tonali, have all missed significant periods.

However, what has not changed is the spirit within a squad which is battling to stay in the mix for European football against all the odds, a quality which was very much to the fore at the weekend.

Howe said: “I always say the team is made up of the character of the players, and you could see the character shining through because I think without that, we were dead and buried and we wouldn’t have come back in the manner that we did.

“The spirit is still there and that’s the most important thing beyond anything. If you have spirit, you have a chance.”

Newcastle head into the Everton came sitting in eighth place in the table, five points behind Manchester United in sixth without the suspended Anthony Gordon and with doubts over Tino Livramento and Miguel Almiron, who limped off at the weekend with ankle and knee injuries respectively, but hopeful that Kieran Trippier could return from a calf problem.

Burn, Krafth or Paul Dummett could plug the gap left by Lascelles in central defence with summer signing Lewis Hall, who has impressed in his most recent appearances as a substitute, a candidate to take over at left-back should Burn get the nod in the middle.

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