NEWCASTLE United manager Bobby Robson continued to play down his side's title chances last night, despite a convincing 3-0 win over North-East neighbours Middlesbrough.

The Magpies reclaimed top spot in the Premiership after Arsenal briefly took over with Boxing Day success at home to Chelsea.

Despite Newcastle's dominance in the Tyne-Tees derby, however, Robson insisted his squad does not have the strength in depth to stay ahead of the rest.

"It is now five on the trot at home for us," said the St. James' Park chief, whose side have also won successvie League games against Arsenal, Leeds, Blackburn and Boro.

"It's coming on well, we are getting better," said Robson. "But I won't change my stance. I still think we will finish there or thereabouts.

"We still need that little bit of extra strength in depth. We have now got two important matches with Chelsea and Manchester United and we go into those feeling confident.

"We are looking to finish in the top six and pick the best team week in and week out that we can.

"There's still a long way to go and we have got to play Liverpool, Man United and Tottenham - we know it's going to be hard."

A first half strike from Alan Shearer followed by second period goals by Gary Speed and Olivier Bernard cemented victory in a clash that could quite easily have ended up with six or seven goals for the hosts.

The three-goal margin does not fully reflect a match in which Newcastle turned on the style, with midfielder Kieron Dyer superb.

Robson, who admitted his plan to keep Boro striker Alen Boksic quiet paid off completely, said: "Kieron was good but so was Speed. I just thought they did well for us.

"Then we had Shearer and Bellamy playing with so much purpose.

"I just thought we played with so much penetration and effective football. At times we played some beautiful football.

"I knew that if Andy O'Brien could do a job on Boksic and Distin could pick up the pieces we would have a chance, and they did that."

While Newcastle start to seriously consider a charge for one of the four Champions League places this season, Boro find themselves just three points above a relegation place.

Without a win in three games and having scored just one goal in six, manager Steve McClaren needs to get his side back on track quickly.

With second-placed Arsenal at Highbury on Saturday the immediate future does not look too bright for the Riverside outfit.

"The only thing hurt after this defeat is our pride," said McClaren. "We are now going to have to show what character we have got and restore that for Saturday."

McClaren praised Newcastle's impressive display, saying: "That is one of the best performances a team has put up against us this season.

"You could see they are full of confidence at the moment. They play good attacking football.

"And playing like they did they will cause any team problems, not just us.

"Against Liverpool and Manchester United we have competed and looked hard to beat.

"But things like the run we are in at the moment do happen during a season and you do wonder what's going on.

"And now we have to make sure we recover from this. We have to keep believing we are better than this and make sure we bounce back."