Hughton planning statement of intent

Chris Hughton has challenged Newcastle to show West Brom just what they are up against if they are to wrench the Championship title from their grasp.

The leaders go into tonight's encounter at St James' Park six points and two places better off than the Baggies, who slipped out of the Premier League with them at the end of last season.

Three points either way could have a major say in how the promotion race pans out with in-form Nottingham Forest having edged themselves to within two points of the Magpies, albeit having played two more games, as a result of Saturday's 2-1 victory over Reading.

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After watching his team end a run of three successive draws in all competitions with a 3-0 FA Cup third round replay victory over Plymouth on Wednesday night, Hughton is hoping his players can make a statement about their intentions for the rest of the campaign when it matters most.

The Magpies manager said: "There's no doubt that when you are playing against what you regard as the bigger and better teams in this division, they are always tough games and it probably means more when you come out and win the game.

"Is it any different to going away to Sheffield United and getting that result there? They are a good side, Sheffield United, and Preston...

"There are numerous stages in the season where you can make statements.

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"But the fact is it is against a side that is as good as West Brom are, yes I do think it's a chance to make a statement."

The Baggies will attempt to become the first visiting team to win at St James' this season with Hughton's men having powered their way to 11 victories and three draws in all competitions to date.

They have conceded only seven goals in the process, and three of those came in a 4-3 Carling Cup second round victory over Huddersfield in August last year.

Hughton has no fresh injury problems, with midfielder Alan Smith having recovered from the eye injury he suffered at Plymouth on January 2.

Joey Barton remains a long-term absentee, while forward Peter Lovenkrands, who scored a hat-trick in midweek, has flown back to Denmark following the death of his father.