Belfast Telegraph

Williamson makes case for defence

Newcastle defender Mike Williamson is hoping for a return to the defensive resilience which characterised their start to the season to help in the charge for Europe.

The Magpies conceded only eight goals in the first 11 Barclays Premier League outings of the current campaign as they got off to a flying start. However, in the 10 league games since the turn of the year, their defences have been pierced on 16 occasions, with 10 of those goals coming in disastrous visits to Tottenham and Fulham.

The 28-year-old former Portsmouth stopper said: "It's one of those, it's the unpredictability of football. All you can do is prepare well and apply yourself 100%. Of course it has been frustrating to concede goals - that's the main frustration for a defender - but I am sure it will turn around."

Alan Pardew's men recorded their first clean sheet in six games in Sunday's 1-0 victory over Norwich which cemented their position in sixth place in the table, five points ahead of Liverpool and just two behind Chelsea, although both teams have a game in hand.

Sixth could yet secure a Europa League berth, and with nine matches to go, the Magpies need to rediscover their best form if they are to give themselves a chance, with Pardew admitting they have not been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks.

That would represent a major achievement for a club which only returned to the top flight two seasons ago, and in particular for a defence which lost left-back Jose Enrique to Liverpool before a ball had been kicked and Steven Taylor to injury in December.

Skipper Fabricio Coloccini has been a key figure, and Williamson has witnessed at close hand the continuing emergence of a man who is building a reputation as a ball-playing centre-half.

He said: "Colo does it and he is probably one of the calmest players I have ever played with in terms of coming out with the ball and his vision and his passing ability - he has got a lot in his armoury.

"Looking at players like David Luiz and people who try to come out, sometimes it can cause problems.

"But for me, I am just a straightforward English defender. I try to head it, kick it, keep clean sheets and let other players play."

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