It certainly feels like a more hopeful mood around Newcastle after the last couple of results, regardless of the fact that we did not manage to make any first team signings in January.
The win away at Villa felt like the most consequential one of the season so far, even if we do not know what the consequences are quite yet. Intensity was back and so was our cutting edge – especially from set pieces.
While some have said the season was a “write-off” when it became clear that we were unable to sign anyone in January, there is still a good possibility that we can qualify for Europe next season and we are still in the FA Cup (and for once have a favourable draw away to Championship strugglers Blackburn).
Although we lost in the reverse fixture against Luton, the mood around the club has changed dramatically. The Toon have won three of their last four in all competitions as a turnaround in fortunes seems to be heading our way.
Luton are going through somewhat of a purple patch too coming off the back of an impressive 4-0 thrashing of Brighton in their last game. This is not going to be an easy match with both teams having something to lose. Newcastle know that failure to qualify for Europe will see some players depart the project early, while Luton know another season in the top flight will bright vital funding for the club’s infrastructure and raise their stature in the game.
Eddie Howe was unwell and unable to do the press conference before the game, but Jason Tindall expects he will be in the dugout at St James’ come Saturday afternoon and said that the side have taken a lot of “confidence” from their recent results.
“We have come off the back of a difficult schedule, the last two results have given us a lot of confidence and hopefully we can build on that. The mood has been great,” Tindall said.
“You have to give Luton a lot of credit. They have been on a really good run, they have shown they are a hard team to play against, they are a dangerous team.”
Eddie Howe is “under the weather” but expected to be in the dugout tomorrow after missing today’s press conference.
Isak has trained well following his premature withdrawal at Villa Park and has a “chance” of involvement against the Hatters. Meanwhile Barnes, Wilson and Willock are “pretty close” to fitness – Barnes may be within an outside shot of making the bench. The winger has not featured for Newcastle since the 8-0 demolition of Sheffield United back in September.
Teden Mengi and Jacob Brown are back from injury for Luton and Issa Kabore has returned from AFCON duty after Burkina Faso were knocked out.
Predicted XI – Dubravka – Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn – Longstaff, Bruno, Miley – Murphy, Gordon, Almiron.
With no concrete sign that Isak will be fully fit to start, the front three that played the majority of the Villa game keep their spots in the lineup. Almiron looked quite dangerous on the left and whipped a delicious ball in for Murphy’s shot that resulted in Moreno’s own goal.
After a solid defensive performance last time out, expect no changes to the back line.
Prediction Newcastle 2 – 0 Luton
It is hard to look past our quality when comparing the two teams, but football is not played on paper and Luton are in good form themselves.
That being said, with the added help of 50,000 Geordies at St James’ and the high intensity football we know and love coming back in full force against Villa, we should be able to push through any threat from the Hatters. I expect Isak to come on from the bench with 25 minutes to go and the possibility of a cameo for Barnes in the dying moments.
Keeping a clean sheet would be a great way to build on the confidence we are growing into.
I just hope Andros Townsend doesn’t come back to Tyneside to haunt us again!