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HUGHTON'S NOTES

Posted on 10 January 2006  - 12:00

The performace against Newcastle showed a vast improvement from the West Brom game. As with other occasions when we have suffered a loss, you always look at the manner of defeat and I think the disappointing thing at West Brom was that we didn't play like we know we can and we got punished for mistakes.

The performace against Newcastle showed a vast improvement from the West Brom game. As with other occasions when we have suffered a loss, you always look at the manner of defeat and I think the disappointing thing at West Brom was that we didn't play like we know we can and we got punished for mistakes.

It is about how you bounce back and I think we did with probably our best performance for a good few games. It says something about the mentality of the players, but we are aware of the fact that we have good character in the group. There is certainly a good team spirit here at the moment and it is something we want to capitalise on.

Probably the only disappointment from the Newcastle performance is that, from our second half display, we were capable of scoring more goals. It would have been good, in a home game, to have scored more goals than we did.

We are happy to have had the extra couple of days to prepare for the Manchester City game. During this Christmas period a lot of people have complained but it is a schedule we know we have to get on with. Some teams - Newcastle included - we able to have some rest with their game on December 28 being called off. The fact that we didn't means we are grateful for the timing of this game.

We do have a decent record at the City of Manchester Stadium, a place where I think City initially found it difficult having gone from the enclosed confines of Maine Road. I don't think they got the same atmosphere at first.

Over a period of time it has changed, probably because of the football they are playing. They are scoring goals and are offensive enough to have lifted everybody's spirits. They play in front of big crowds in a fantastic stadium.

We've done okay there and it would be nice to maintain that tonight

Stuart Pearce has done a fantastic job, you always look at the players bought in and he has rejuvenated Darius Vassell (right with Trevor Sinclair) and Andy Cole - there is always goals with those two.

He has also had an effect on players who were already there, you look at young Joey Barton and he is playing very, very well. He has had difficult moments there, but he is very much a talent and the manager is getting the best out of him.

Trevor Sinclair has been out with injury for a long spell and it is almost like he is making up for that lost time. He is playing very well and, in an era where we don't have the wide players we used to, he is a big asset for them.

Cole and Vassell have played most games together. If either one of them has missed out they have played Antoine Sibierski off the front, a very versatile player who is always a threat - particularly with the ball in the air.

It is a genuine partnership, with Cole scoring the more goals and Vassell - who probably felt he needed the move at the time from Aston Villa - will be enjoying the experience of playing alongside him.

I suspect City will go in with a 4-4-2 with those two up front and Sibierski on the left of midfield. Barton (left) and probably Sun Jihai will fill the two central positions and Sinclair on the right.

Richard Dunne and Sylvain Distin are likely to be the centre halves, with one of Stephen Jordan or Ben Thatcher at left back and either Nedum Onuoha or David Sommeil on the right.

They haven't had to make too many changes - although young Stephen Ireland came in and did very well for a few games - and have a nice mix there.