Hughton raises the bar


NEWCASTLE, April 6- Newcastle manager Chris Hughton has challenged his players to win the Championship title after celebrating their promotion back to the Premier League with a 2-1 win over Sheffield United.

The Magpies’ return to the top flight was assured when Nottingham Forest failed to beat Cardiff before kick off at St James’ Park on Monday and Hughton’s team kept the crowd of 48,270 in celebratory mood by coming from behind to win thanks to goals from Peter Lovenkrands and Kevin Nolan.

With promotion comfortably secured just a year after the misery of relegation from the Premier League, Hughton could be forgiven for resting on his laurels for a while as he reflects on a successful start to his reign.

But the former Tottenham assistant manager, who began the season as Newcastle caretaker amid chaos off the pitch, is determined to ensure his side finish the season as champions.

That goal is well within the Magpies’ reach as they are six points ahead of second placed West Bromwich Albion with just five games to play.

"I must admit right at this moment, I am not even thinking about next season. Right at this moment, we have five games left and our aim now is to win the Championship," Hughton said.

"The fact that we have been at the top for so long this season, it would be a real disappointment if we didn’t win it.

"I have a group of lads there and they know that is the next target, the next target is to win it."

Promoted with six games to spare, the Magpies were in danger of having their party spoiled by the Blades, who took a 22nd-minute lead through Richard Cresswell’s deft header which took a touch off Darius Henderson on the line.

The home side were far from at their best, but they got their chance to level when Chris Morgan, having already been warned by referee Andy Hall about his wrestling match with Andy Carroll, grappled with the striker once again in the box and saw the official point to the spot.

Lovenkrands duly dispatched the penalty for his 15th goal of the season, but it was left to Nolan to win it 18 minutes from time with an acrobatic finish as he matched the Dane’s tally.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has often been criticised by fans for his chaotic reign, but he was at St James’ Park for the match and visited the dressing room in the immediate aftermath of the final whistle as the party got under way in earnest.

Hughton said: "He was down in the changing room, but it was fairly chaotic down there.

"I managed to speak to him very, very briefly. It was just congratulations. This is what we are all in the game for.

"The moments you see in the changing room today, you don’t see that often and when you are involved in it and you do see it, you have to enjoy it."