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Newcastle United Vs Blackburn Rovers, Sat 24 Sep 2011

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Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi has put team-mate Leon Best's fine start to the season down to nothing more than confidence.

Best has contributed three goals to the Magpies' fine unbeaten start to the season, which was extended to seven games in all competitions by Tuesday night's 4-3 extra-time victory at Nottingham Forest in the Carling Cup, although his form did not win him an international recall when Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni announced his latest squad on Friday morning.

Such is the 25-year-old former Coventry man's importance to manager Alan Pardew after an impressive total return of nine goals from 12 Barclays Premier League starts for the club, that he was an unused substitute at the City Ground in order to keep him fresh for the home league clash with Blackburn.

Neither Best nor Ameobi, 29, looked likely to play such a key role for the club during the opening weeks of the campaign with Pardew scouring Europe for another striker during the summer transfer window, but the club's failure to get their man proved a bonus for the younger man in particular.

Ameobi said: "He has just grown in confidence - that's what scoring goals does for you, especially strikers.

"When he first joined us, he found it difficult to adjust. Experience is a big thing and he's continued to grow. You can see that this season.

"He's leading the line well and getting goals. It can only be good for the team.

"As a player, you want to be pushed all the way, and that's what he's doing. That's what I've got to do to get my place back. It can only bode well for the team."

Midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa could be in line for his first Barclays Premier League appearance since October 3 last year.

The France international played 70 minutes of Tuesday night's 4-3 Carling Cup win at Nottingham Forest, his first competitive action since breaking his leg in two places, and although Pardew does not want to rush him back, he may figure at some point against Rovers.

Striker Shola Ameobi is a doubt with a shoulder problem, while Davide Santon has returned to training after having fluid drained from his knee but will miss out, as will Alan Smith (hamstring), Haris Vuckic (broken hand) and Mike Williamson (broken arm).

Blackburn will go hunting a win at Newcastle for the sixth season on the trot, with Rovers manager Steve Kean looking to put one over on Pardew.

The pair were junior coaches together at Reading more than a decade ago, when Tommy Burns was the Royals manager, and if the last five seasons are anything to go by, it will be Kean with the broader smile come the final whistle at St James' Park.

A week ago, any prospect of Rovers continuing such a run would have looked bleak, but as Kean admitted a week is a long time in football, and successive victories over Arsenal and Leyton Orient have seen confidence blossom at Ewood Park.

Kean said: "That's what victories do for you. Our performances had been good but we didn't manage to get victories.

"Now we are looking forward to the next game and trying to keep the momentum going.

"We have a great record up there in the last few years but we have to go about the game in the right manner and be very cautious at the back.

"If we come back down the motorway with a win it will have been a great week for us but the important thing is that we respect what Newcastle have done this season.

"They are very tight and well organised. I worked with Alan Pardew many years ago at Reading and he will set up them up very well so it will be tough to break them down, but we have the attacking players to do so."

David Goodwillie, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Michel Salgado are all fit for the trip.

That means Kean has almost a full squad to choose from with only David Dunn (calf) and Ryan Nelsen (knee) still sidelined.

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Topics:
Football
Blackburn Rovers
Premier League
Newcastle United

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