Hughton overjoyed by Newcastle promotion

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The Independent Football

Newcastle manager Chris Hughton heaped praise on the club's players and fans after a regulation 2-0 win over condemned Plymouth saw them crowned Coca-Cola Championship champions last night.

The Magpies were already assured promotion but goals from striker Andy Carroll and winger Wayne Routledge ensured they would return to the top flight with silverware.

For Argyle the result confirmed their relegation to League One, with the rival fans left to ponder wildly differing prospects next term.

Hughton, whose side are now unbeaten in 15 matches - a run that includes seven wins in a row, said: "I think we got to a stage where we couldn't shout from the rooftops but we were comfortable that we were going to go up.

"We got to that stage and probably for a little while it's been about winning the title and I couldn't be any prouder of this group of players.

"They have gone from day one and we have probably had one blip during the season, they came back from that strongly and went on a very good run.

"We have been the team to beat all season.

"We have a magnificent support that have made every stadium that we have gone to a big occasion, including tonight."

A travelling support of 2,431 made the 820-mile round trip to cheer their team to the title at Home Park.

Carroll had already missed one fine chance before he rose to head his 18th goal of the season in the 20th minute from Danny Guthrie's corner.

United doubled their advantage eight minutes later when Joey Barton sent Routledge away down the right with a brilliant defence splitting ball between Onismor Bhasera and central defender Reda Johnson.

Routledge raced past home keeper David Stockdale, playing his last match on loan from Fulham, and scored from an acute angle as he tumbled over.

Substitute Leon Best could have made it three for the champions but his 84th minute shot bounced off the bar after beating Stockdale.

The closest Plymouth came to scoring was when Alan Judge lashed an audacious 30 yard shot off the bar during the second half.

For Argyle coach Paul Mariner the task is to follow Hughton's lead and lead his side to promotion at the first attempt.

His side have enjoyed six seasons in the second tier but must prepare for life in League One next term.

Reflecting on the club's position, Mariner added: "We also have a fantastic fan base and we owe it to them to do our best to bounce back up to this division - and that's what we will be aiming to do.

"Obviously I am so disappointed but I still have to say that the players tried to get the ball down, tried to pass and play the right way - even under the pressure they were under tonight, knowing that they had to win.

"That speaks volumes to me, and re-affirms what they are about. I asked for a response after the Watford defeat and they gave me that. We had chances to score tonight and our finishing has to improve and that's what we need to do."