Shearer hoping for some Oz wizardry

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Alan Shearer is hoping Mark Viduka's return to fitness will help to re-ignite his goal-shy team.

The Magpies head into Monday night's must-win clash with Portsmouth at St James' Park having scored just four times in their past eight Barclays Premier League games, a sequence of fixtures which has yielded only three points from a possible 24.

Asked what the returning 33-year-old Australia international might add to the team, Shearer said: "Hold-up play. When the ball goes into him, more often than not, it will stick."

He added: "That will give our players a chance to get up and support and make runs off him, knowing the ball will stick with him."

Newcastle have not scored more than once in a single game since their last win, a 3-2 victory at West Brom on February 7, and Shearer knows that with clean sheets at a premium - they have collected just one in their past 16 league outings - that situation will have to change if they are to rescue their season.

Viduka has managed only seven appearances all season because of a troublesome Achilles injury, and is yet to find the back of the net. But he showed enough during his 29-minute cameo as a substitute in the 1-0 defeat at Tottenham last Sunday to suggest he could have a major role to play during the remaining five fixtures of the campaign.

It was no coincidence that the Magpies belatedly started to fire at White Hart Lane after Viduka and Obafemi Martins had been introduced from the bench.

The pair, along with skipper Michael Owen, teamed up to fire the club to safety under Kevin Keegan at the end of last season, and Shearer has not yet ruled out the possibility of fielding all three in the same team.

He said: "We want all our big guns fit and certainly, Viduka is, Martins is, Michael Owen is. We want them all fit to give us options."

On Monday's opponents, Shearer said: "Without doubt, they will be a tough nut to crack. Paul Hart has gone in there and done a really good job. They will certainly be a threat from set-pieces, but I believe if we look at ourselves and do it right ourselves, then we will have a big chance."

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Tottenham Hotspur
West Bromwich Albion
Michael Owen
Premier League
Newcastle United
Alan Shearer
Obafemi Martins
Mark Viduka
Kevin Keegan

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