Found November 18, 2012 on Fox Soccer:
PLAYERS: Alan Pardew
Alan Pardew has challenged his Newcastle players to end a run of successive home defeats by winning Thursday's Europa League game against Maritimo. Victory against the Portuguese side would guarantee the Magpies' qualification for the knockout phase of the competition and help to cushion the blow of Saturday's 2-1 loss to Swansea. The shock defeat followed last weekend's home reverse by West Ham and Pardew is determined to avoid an unwanted hat-trick. The 51-year-old said: "We certainly don't want to lose three home games on the trot, that would be a blow. "Maritimo is a big game for us because if we can win it, it guarantees qualification. "That's what we need to do, get one hurdle out of the way and then look for our first win away from home in the Premier League in the next game. "They are the two immediate hurdles in front of us." A well-executed header from winger Anthony Pilkington, once on United's youth books, after 60 minutes proved enough to give Norwich their third win in the last five Premier League matches. Since the mid-October international break, the Canaries have kept four clean sheets, beating Arsenal 1-0 at Carrow Road, and conceding just once, in the 1-1 draw at Aston Vila. It is a remarkable turnaround from the start of Hughton's reign, when Norwich had shipped 17 goals in the first seven matches, thumped 5-2 at home by Liverpool and then going down 4-1 at Chelsea. "Any praise that I will get or achievements here is all down to 11 players on the pitch," the former Newcastle and Birmingham manager said. "All you can do I is set a team up how you want to, try to motivate them, get them right tactically, but as soon as that whistle goes, it is about 11 players." Hughton added: "At the moment, you have got 11 players who are confident in their own ability and absolutely working their socks off. "I am really proud of this group. There is a good feeling here at the moment and they really deserve it. "We are on a good run, and it shows if we are at it and at our best, then we can win football matches. Blackburn-born Pilkington, 24, feels Norwich can use their current momentum to push on and stay clear of being dragged back into the relegation dogfight. "We are unbeaten in six matches now and heading in the right direction," Pilkington said on Canaries Player. "The lads put in a great shift, they always do, whoever we play. "Thankfully we are picking up points now." Pilkington, signed from Huddersfield in July 2011, feels Norwich are finally getting the rewards for their efforts which earlier in the season produced just three points out of the first 21. "The results recently show what we are all about," he added. "We have got a great squad and everyone believed right from the start, even when we weren't picking up points. "We knew we had a great squad and we could win games and that is what we are doing now. "The gaffer has told us to believe in ourselves, and we are." Scotland defender Steven Whittaker has made an impact since recovering from an ankle injury which sidelined him since pre-season after signing from Rangers. The current central-defensive pairing of Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner has proved integral to Norwich's new-found mean streak, but Whittaker maintains everyone in the side is focused on the same goal. "It's not just about the back four. The midfielders worked tremendously hard in front of us to cut down the spaces, and it makes our job a little bit easier," he said. "Hopefully it is something we can embed into the squad now and keep it going."
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