Scottish Premier League

Forrest: I am feeling good

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Mon, 25 Feb 2013 09:15:00

Newcastle midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa believes 'everything is in place' for future success at the club despite their struggles this season.

The Magpies have enjoyed some relief in recent games after a troubled first half to the campaign which left them near the Premier League relegation places.

Their inconsistent form came as a disappointment after Alan Pardew led them to an impressive fifth-placed finish last term.

But Ben Arfa believes this year's campaign will finish better than expected, with Europa League success still within their reach, and feels he can fulfil his trophy ambitions at St James' Park in the future.

The Frenchman, whose appearances for Newcastle this season have been limited by a hamstring injury, told The Times: "It's really special to be back. I think we can turn this into a better season than it might have seemed.

"I'd love to win titles, silverware. To give everything I can so that at the end of my career I can look back and have no regrets. Why not here? It's a beautiful club.

"There's everything here to succeed; a great stadium and infrastructure, brilliant fans, good players. Everything is in place."


An influx of French signings in the winter transfer window has given Newcastle a boost both domestically and in Europe, and Ben Arfa has hailed the club's recruitment drive.

"I feel a great sense of pride to see all the French players arriving," he said. "They are great signings. We've recruited very well."

Ben Arfa is keen to repay manager Pardew for the faith shown in him, adding: "We have a good relationship.

"He's given me a lot of responsibility, but he's done it gradually, so he's learnt exactly where I play best. And he now has confidence in me, which has really helped my game. I want to repay him for that."

Johnny Russell converted from the spot with four minutes to go to secure a 2-2 draw for the home side after referee Alan Muir ruled McGivern tripped Gary Mackay-Steven.

The on-loan Manchester City defender is not disputing the challenge but insists it took place outside the box - a view backed up by television replays.

He said: "I knew at the time when I stuck my leg out that I was giving away a free-kick.

"When I turned around and the referee was pointing to the spot I was shocked.

"I tried to have a word with the linesman and he was having none of it.

"I think the linesman has got to help the referee out there because I'm not sure what the referee's position was but the linesman should be level with the play.

"I've seen it back on the replay and you can clearly see I'm standing outside the box when I make the tackle so it's very disappointing."

He added: "I tried to tell the linesman it was clearly outside the box and he told me to get away.

"Whenever officials are like that you're not going to get much out of them. You've just got to get on with it."

Moments earlier, United claimed Russell had been fouled in the box by Paul Hanlon.

McGivern said: "The officials are there to make decisions and they've certainly got my one wrong.

"I've seen Paul's back as well and I don't think that was one either.

"If they've been influenced by the fans then that's a bit disappointing."

Hibs responded well after falling behind early on when goalkeeper Ben Williams' attempted clearance cannoned off the body of John Rankin and into the back of the net.

James McPake levelled for the visitors before a lovely strike from Leigh Griffiths handed them the lead until the late penalty call.

However, having picked up three points on the road against St Mirren in their last match, McGivern refused to be too downbeat ahead of Wednesday's game against Kilmarnock.

He said: "We've had two away games and picked up four points so if we can get a win on Wednesday it's a good week's work."

United boss Jackie McNamara said: "We were poor in the first half and were quite fortunate with the goal.

"I thought Griffiths was the difference between the two sides in the first half.

"But I thought we deserved at least a point for our second half performance."

The 26-year-old forward netted his 19th goal of a superb debut campaign in English football, side-footing Swansea's second beyond Bradford keeper Matt Duke as part of an emphatic 5-0 Capital One Cup final triumph.

Man of the match Nathan Dyer and Jonathan de Guzman grabbed a brace apiece, the Dutchman getting his first after Duke had brought him down in the area and been dismissed by referee Kevin Friend.

Success at Wembley saw Swansea secure their first major piece of silverware, and also earns them a place in the Europa League.

That means a first taste of European football since 1991, but question marks remain over whether Laudrup will be the man to lead them as the Dane continues to be linked with some of the biggest jobs on the continent.

But, having brought Swansea so far, Michu believes it is only right Laudrup sees them through their next challenge.

"The gaffer here has done great in his first season," he said. "But I have gone up to Michael and said 'stay with us now we are in Europe'.

"I know other people will want him. He is really good, doing really well and maybe he can go with another club, but I hope he will stay here.

"We are growing up really fast and it is always difficult for a club of our size to win a trophy.

"But I think now we are going to play in Europe we can bring in some very good players and can be a stronger team next season."

Michu sympathised with Bradford as their hiding condemned them to the heaviest defeat suffered by any side in a League Cup final, but acknowledged the key moment of Swansea's route to Wembley had come in their 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their semi-final against Chelsea.

He said: "We scored five, which is never easy to do.

"It was a great performance because Bradford have been very impressive in this competition.

"But the most important game for us was against Chelsea in the semi-final. We are here because of the way we played at Stamford Bridge."

The Scotland international has been in and out of Neil Lennon's plans for large parts of the campaign due only to a variety of niggles including groin and hamstring complaints.

However, the 21-year-old is now looking to become an ever-present in the run-in to the Hoops' likely SPL title win, with the possibility of a William Hill Scottish Cup final appearance still on the cards.

He said: "I am feeling good. I am doing a lot of running with the sports scientist and I just need to get more games.

"There has not been anything seriously wrong and maybe that's a good thing but it has been really frustrating, coming back and getting injured (again) so hopefully with a little bit of luck I can stay fit for the rest of the season."

Celtic stand-in skipper Joe Ledley opened the scoring in the 13th minute with Forrest notching the second from the spot four minutes into the second half after Dee substitute Matt Lockwood, only on for the start of the second-half as replacement for Brian Easton, was shown a straight red card for denying Gary Hooper a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Dylan McGeouch, Ledley and Hooper added goals to further deflate the relegation-bound visitors whose new interim boss John Brown watched from the directors' box.

With Kris Commons missing through a virus, Forrest was happy to take on the responsibility of taking the spot-kick.

"I was asked before the game and I felt confident," he said.

"I think that is the main thing if you are going to hit a penalty and I am just glad it went in.

"That's one out of one penalties, I have given myself a chance (of taking the next one) but I won't bother with that, it was good to get the three points."

Dundee remain 15 points adrift of St Mirren at the bottom of the table but assistant Ray Farningham pleaded with disgruntled fans not to blame Brown for his controversial appointment following the shock departure of Barry Smith last week.

Farningham said: "It is not John's fault and I have got to emphasise that.

"I don't know about John's credentials, all I know is that he will give it 100 per cent and will do everything to try to get the club moving forward and I'm quite sure he will because that is what we have to do now."

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