Newcastle's away errors condemned by Allardyce

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The Independent Online

Sam Allardyce, the Newcastle manager, has admitted his side's dismal away record has increased the pressure on them to maintain their form at home.

The Magpies entertain Portsmouth on Saturday with only Aston Villa having managed to deny them all three points at St James' Park so far this season, and with their unbeaten run on Tyneside under Allardyce stretching to six games in all competitions.

By contrast, their return away from home is a paltry four points from a possible 15 – a run which includes defeats at Derby and Reading, where Shane Long's last-ditch strike handed the Royals victory last weekend despite the visitors having dragged themselves back into the game late on.

Pompey will arrive at St James' having not lost in seven games, during which they have conceded only four goals – all of them in a remarkable 7-4 home victory over Reading.

Allardyce is acutely aware that his side will suffer setbacks on their own patch as the season goes on, and that makes the resolution of their problems on the road an even greater priority.

He said: "We have put huge pressure on ourselves, after back-to- back [home] wins, to win another home game and put ourselves back in the picture at the top end.

"We will not win every game at home. We have got to get points away from home, and Saturday was an ideal opportunity to put one in the bag. We scored in the 76th minute and had 14 minutes to see out.

"But we committed suicide by conceding a very basic goal, really, that we should deal with 99 times out of 100, or 999 times out of a 1,000. We would have been three games undefeated and broken the problem away from home by getting one point, but the goal we conceded has made life extremely difficult."

Allardyce's concern over maintaining that run of results at home looks well-founded. After Pompey head north, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City are all due on Tyneside, as well as Derby and Birmingham, by 2 January, while trips to Sunderland, Blackburn, Fulham, Wigan and Chelsea will provide a test of whether or not the manager's message is finally hitting home.

Alan Shearer, the former Newcastle captain, maintains close links with the club he represented with such distinction for a decade, and knows the ongoing reconstruction will take time.

He said: "Patience is the key. We have had good good results, some poor results – Derby and Reading away and Arsenal in the cup. It is going to take time. We have a new chairman, new manager and new players. It is not going to happen overnight, much as we would like it to."

Shearer's comments came as he attended the launch of the Professional Footballers' Association's centenary game, in which he will play for an England Legends XI against a World XI, presenting the prospect of a reunion with his former Newcastle manager Ruud Gullit.

Gullit's decision to leave the £15m front man out of his side for the derby against Sunderland in August 1999 famously contributed to his exit, although the now retired Geordie was diplomatic when asked about the Dutchman.

"I have tremendous respect for him as a coach. Whatever went on, went on," said Shearer, adding with a smile: "He might even play centre-half."

Meanwhile, Newcastle were not commenting yesterday on a report that the former chairman, Freddy Shepherd, and his family, and his vice-chairman, Douglas Hall, are not welcome at St James' amid a contractual dispute with the new owner, Mike Ashley.

It is claimed that Shepherd's brother, Bruce, was refused admission to the family's executive box for the 3-1 victory over Tottenham last Monday evening.

The Senegal captain, El Hadji Diouf, is to return to international football after appeals for him to reconsider his decision to pull out. The Bolton striker announced his international retirement three weeks ago, citing organisational problems in the national team.

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