Pardew praise for defenders

BY foxsports • January 12, 2012

Some of the gloss had been taken off the Magpies' fine start to the season when they went six Premier League games without a victory in November and December and collected only two points along the way.

However, a 2-0 Boxing Day victory at Bolton has sparked a run of three wins in four games in all competitions, including a 3-0 demolition of title hopefuls Manchester United, to cement the club in seventh place in the table.

The last of those successes, Saturday's 2-1 FA Cup third round fightback against Blackburn, was achieved without star men Demba Ba and Cheick Tiote, who will spend the next few weeks on African Nations Cup duty with Senegal and the Ivory Coast respectively.

But while both men will be sorely missed, Pardew has been able to console himself with the emergence of Santon and Williamson in recent weeks.

Santon has lined up at left-back in each of the last two games and has fully justified the faith invested in him during the summer.

He found himself in direct competition with Park Ji-sung and Antonio Valencia and not only managed to keep both at bay with a helping hand from midfielder Jonas Gutierrez, but also repeatedly combined with the Argentinian to provide an attacking threat.

Pardew said: "You have to remember he was up against outstanding players in the Manchester United game, and not only did he win that particular battle, but his use of the ball was excellent.

"He can play both sides and he gives us a massive weaponry. But at the moment, left-back, he looks like he has probably got the nod."

Left-back had represented a problem position for Pardew following Jose Enrique's departure for Liverpool in August, and it was the right-sided Ryan Taylor who eventually plugged the gap after James Perch suffered an injury on the eve of the new season.

Following a shaky start, Taylor made the position his own, and it is testament to 21-year-old Santon's form that he appears to edged himself ahead of the former Wigan man.

Newcastle have high hopes of the former Inter Milan defender, who established himself as a regular under Jose Mourinho and having been capped at senior international level as a teenager, is currently captain of Italy's Under-21s.

But if his rise to the fore has proved hugely welcome, so too has the return of a man who had almost been forgotten on Tyneside.

Central defender Williamson missed the end of last season after breaking a bone in his arm in a freak gym accident, and his return was hampered by an ankle problem which sidelined him until the end of December.

In his absence, Steven Taylor's season-ending Achilles injury left the Magpies' defensive resources so stretched that Pardew was forced to field four full-backs - Ryan Taylor, Santon, Perch and Danny Simpson - at Norwich on December 10.

Williamson's re-appearance could hardly have been more timely, and his presence in the team has coincided with that run of four games which has brought just one defeat, and that at in-form Liverpool.

Pardew said: "We have had two clean sheets from Mike in four games, and that's fantastic.

"It just goes to show how he has conditioned himself in that time off. He can be very proud of himself."


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