Magpies bolster squad

First published in Newcastle United News, Match Reports, Fixtures, Results & Tables The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

HAVING been rocked at Blackpool on Wednesday night, it has not taken long for Newcastle United to respond to their first defeat of the season.

Less than 24 hours after slipping to a 2-1 defeat at Bloomfield Road, the Magpies yesterday completed the loan capture of Blackburn Rovers defender Zurab Khizanishvili.

The imposing Georgia international has signed a three-month loan deal at St James’ Park, and will go straight into the Newcastle squad for tomorrow’s home game with Plymouth Argyle.

Having started his career in his native Tbilisi, Khizanishvili played for Dundee and Rangers before moving to Blackburn in 2006, and after the Magpies’ defensive shortcomings were repeatedly exposed at Blackpool this week, Chris Hughton hopes the centre- half’s arrival will help shore up the gaps.

“Zurab is an experienced defender and we’re very pleased to get him on board,”

said the interim boss. “He knows English football very well and will be a valuable addition to the squad over the coming months.”

Khizanishvili will add some much-needed muscularity to the Magpies’ backline, and Andy Carroll has admitted Wednesday’s defeat to the Tangerines will not be a oneoff unless he and his teammates learn to handle the downside of being the biggest club in the Championship.

The Magpies slipped to their first defeat of the season as Blackpool delivered a masterclass in how to punch above your weight in English football’s second tier.

Off the pitch, almost 10,000 spectators created a hostile and intimidating atmosphere that was a throwback to footballing days gone by, and on the field, Blackpool’s players harried and hassled their opponents into a sequence of errors that effectively determined the outcome of the game.

It was the type of match Newcastle were predicted to lose at the start of the season, and while one defeat is insufficient to undermine much of the good work that has been carried out in the opening six weeks of the campaign, it nevertheless represents a timely reality check ahead of matches against Plymouth and Peterborough.

“Every team wants to beat Newcastle United,” said Carroll, who scored the Magpies’ goal two days ago as he returned from a groin injury.

“It’s one of the biggest clubs in England and everyone wants to beat them.

“When you go to teams like Blackpool, it’s like a cup final to them, they are not used to it. There’s other teams like that, it will be tough for us, so we will have to stick in and work hard.

“We need to work harder in games like that. We know that because we were outplayed for 45 minutes. We showed in the previous matches that we have the quality and character to do well in this league, but we had a bad half at Blackpool and we have to put that right.”

Wednesday’s defeat provided further evidence of the lack of depth in Newcastle’s squad, as Chris Hughton struggled to cope with the absence of the suspended Alan Smith and the injured Shola Ameobi.

Six Newcastle players have played in every Championship match so far, a high figure given the attrition that goes hand in hand with playing three games in a week, but one that is all but inevitable given the lack of alternatives.

Khizanishvili’s arrival will help, but Carroll has also pointed to the emergence of a crop of youngsters as proof of the Magpies’ ability to cope with the demands of life outside the top-flight.

“We are a bit short and everyone knows that,” said Carroll.

“We need players, but we do have top-class younger lads coming through. You have seen that with Nile Ranger.

Since I have been injured, Nile has come in and played two matches well.

“We also have Kazenga Lua Lua and Tamas Kadar. People talk about players coming in, but they don’t really talk about the younger players coming through. We do have such players here capable of stepping in.’’

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