Belfast Telegraph

Cissé brings good times back to Newcastle

By Martin Hardy

Hard work and moments of sublime quality have been the cornerstones of Newcastle's dramatic rise to the brink of a Champions League qualifying place. Papiss Cissé has provided the latter since his £9m transfer deadline day signing, giving serious momentum to their top four hopes before the visit of Bolton to St James' Park today.

It was revealing to hear from his team-mate Tim Krul that Cissé had in fact topped his second goal at Swansea in training the day before. The Senegalese forward is proving to be an inspired signing right now, taking his tally to nine goals from eight games since he moved from Freiburg in January.

"He is scoring everything at the moment," said Krul. "In training on Thursday he chipped Rob Elliott from 40 metres. He's on fire and what a player to have bought.

"We have to believe [we can reach the Champions League] and win our games. Bolton is the first one, then Stoke at home as well; those are the games we have to win to keep the pressure on the top four or five. Maybe we can sneak in but we have to take it game by game.

"It's incredible. The good times are back at Newcastle – just keep believing. Bolton at home on Monday is a big opportunity. It's about taking it one game at a time. Swansea away from home is not easy and to have come away with three points is great. Hopefully, with a sell-out crowd on Monday, we can get another three points.

"Where we are in the league shows what a good job Alan Pardew has done. Everyone is committed and wants to work for each other. We had a lot of new players coming in but they settled straight away and we haven't had any problems."

Hatem Ben Arfa's inclusion in the Newcastle starting XI in the last two months has proved vital. "I'm enjoying getting a run of games and winning makes it better but we have to keep winning and we can't afford to relax," he said. "If we keep going with good spirit and form, maybe we can get into the Champions League, maybe we can catch Arsenal, but we're just looking at ourselves. Other clubs aren't a concern; we concentrate on ourselves.

"We have to take it game by game and see where we are at the end of the season. It's about making sure we get into Europe; if we can get to the Champions League great – if we do, we do, and if we don't, we don't – but it's important that we focus on one game at a time. Our form is going very well and, hopefully, we can keep it going.

"Papiss is just brilliant. He scores a lot of goals and is very good for us. Hopefully, he can continue this form until the end of the season, but everyone is working hard, the whole squad every day. There's very good spirit in the dressing room and that's why we win.

"He's showing very good form and if he keeps going maybe I could say he's the best striker I've played with – Papiss and Demba Ba. Demba is amazing; he worked very hard on the left [at Swansea on Friday]. Having two very good strikers gives us very good confidence. We know they can score in every game, at any moment."

Bolton must recover quickly from their latest defeat, 3-0 at home to Fulham on Saturday, as the relegation fight intensifies.

"What we have got to do is equate it to riding a bike," said Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager. "You fall off as a kid: you have got to get on it again. That is what we need to do. We are not in a situation that we have not been in before. We have had to deal with this as the season has gone along, and again we have to pick ourselves up and look to get to the performance level we brought to the three previous games.

"Will we do anything to nullify Cissé? What, and then leave Ba unmarked? They have top players. They have Ben Arfa and Gutierrez. At the end of the day, we will pay Newcastle the utmost respect because they are a quality side. They are fighting for that Champions League spot, that goes without saying, but the bottom line is we have to make sure we get to our best because if we don't, then it will certainly not be good enough at Newcastle."

Great eights

Papiss Cissé's nine in eight games is one of the best scoring starts in the top flight. The top goal returns from a player's first eight Premier League games are:

10: Mick Quinn (Coventry) The 30-year-old journeyman striker scored 10 in his first six matches in 1992 – then seven in his next 20.

9: Papiss Cissé (Newcastle), Mark Viduka (Leeds), Sergio Aguero (Man City)

Viduka failed to score in his first three league games for Leeds in 2000. Aguero has 19 goals in 30 City games so far this season.

8: Alan Shearer (Blackburn), Kevin Phillips (Sunderland), Francesco Baiano (Derby)

Newcastle v Bolton



Odds: Home 8-13; Draw 14-5; Away 9-2. Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1 10.20pm) Team news: Newcastle will stick with Papa Cisse and Demba Ba in attack. Cisse is after his 10th goal in nine games as Newcastle seek a fifth successive league win. Chris Eagles could come in to the Bolton line-up for Ryo Miyaichi who has had a lot of game time of late. Kevin Davies is also in contention to start up front for Bolton.

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