Jenas backs Newcastle's spirit level

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The Independent Football

The Newcastle midfielder Jermaine Jenas has declared there is much more to come from his side as they attempt to slip into top gear in the race for Champions' League qualification.

The Magpies eased their way back into the Premiership top four with last Saturday's hard-fought derby victory over Middlesbrough, and they will hope to cement that by collecting three more points at Portsmouth today.

Pompey may be fighting relegation in their first season in the Premiership, but they dumped United's main rivals Liverpool out of the FA Cup last Sunday to illustrate how big a challenge Sir Bobby Robson's men face at Fratton Park.

Newcastle followed up their derby success with Thursday afternoon's faltering Uefa Cup draw with Valerenga in Oslo and are yet to rediscover on a consistent basis the kind of form that propelled them into third place last season. But Jenas is confident his side are ready to peak just when they need it most, and today is the ideal time to start as they look for only a third away win in the League.

"A lot of the lads would admit we've been up and down all season and there's a lot to come," he said. "But to say we've been up and down all season and are still in fourth spot, that shows we've got some grit and determination about ourselves and a bit of fight."

Injuries to key players too have had an impact - Craig Bellamy and Jonathan Woodgate have been the most prominent casualties - but the European calamity has weighed heavily on their shoulders, although Jenas believes the team have now shaken off that particular burden.

"We've had to," he said. "We've just got to go for that fourth spot and obviously try to get back for next year. But we're in the Uefa Cup, we're pleased to be in it still and we're raring to go."

Today Jenas and his team-mates could face Pompey's January loan signing Lomana LuaLua, who played a series of cameo roles for the Magpies earlier in the season; they will try to ensure he does nothing to enhance his reputation. "He's an old friend, but hopefully he won't do too well against us," said Jenas.

Skipper Alan Shearer, controversially rested in midweek, will return to the starting line-up, but Darren Ambrose is a major doubt after suffering a muscle problem in Norway and Woodgate continues to battle against a groin injury.

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