Chris Hughton hails improving Andy Carroll

Newcastle boss Chris Hughton hailed striker Andy Carroll after he struck once again to hurt one of the Barclays Premier League big guns.

The 21-year England international, whose goal at Arsenal earlier this month secured a famous 1-0 victory, took his tally for the season to nine to ensure champions Chelsea left the north-east with only a point to show for their efforts.

Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti, who returned to London by coach along with his players after their flight plans were dashed by bad weather, abandoned his favoured 4-3-3 formation in an effort to keep Carroll quiet, but the local boy was not to be denied.

Hughton said: "Andy doesn't play with fear. He's not fearful of any opposition or any individual - that's how he is at the moment.

"When you are in a confident mood and you are scoring goals, that's how it should be.

"You should look forward to every game. You should think that every game is an opportunity to play well and score.

"Going back to last season, he came up against some really tough, Championship-hardened centre-halves who at times physically got the better of him.

"But his movement across defenders has improved, as has his general movement.

"I think he realises he is up against better players now and to get the better of them, his movement has got to be better.

"He is in really confident mood at the moment."

Newcastle, who had dumped the champions out of the Carling Cup in September, knew a repeat was a tall order with Ancelotti fielding as strong a side as he could muster, but they got off to the perfect start.

A breakdown in communication between Brazilian Alex and keeper Petr Cech saw the defender serve the ball up on a plate for Carroll to tap home from two yards.

But Chelsea' response was concerted and Salomon Kalou levelled in first-half injury-time when his shot was deflected past keeper Tim Krul by the unfortunate Steven Taylor.

The Ivory Coast international passed up a glorious opportunity to win the game 10 minutes from time when he fired into the side netting with the goal at his mercy, but the Magpies, for whom new central defensive partners Taylor and Sol Campbell were excellent, deserved their point.

Ancelotti said: "I'm happy for the performance. We didn't start so well and conceded too easily and for this reason, our game was more difficult.

"But the reaction was good and by the end of the first half, we had total control.

"We created a lot of chances, but needed to convert more to win the game.

"The reason for this result is the same - at the moment, we are unable to convert our chances."

Ancelotti confirmed that Alex will fly to Brazil this week to undergo surgery on his knee with John Terry due to return to full training, as is Frank Lampard.

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