Second-bottom Newcastle United are being urged by Jonjo Shelvey to show they have the stomach for a relegation fight against AFC Bournemouth on Saturday and take a step towards preserving their Premier League status.
Steve McClaren’s side have collected seven points from a possible 30 since December 26, leaving Newcastle languishing in the relegation zone with 11 games to play.
Conceding a late goal to lose 1-0 at Stoke City on Wednesday proved hard to stomach for McClaren, who labelled it a “cruel” result.
However, McClaren is adamant Newcastle – in the bottom three on goal difference – can stay up, a sentiment echoed by midfielder Shelvey.
“There is pressure, there is no hiding from it. The table doesn’t lie,” Shelvey told the club’s official website.
“We all need to come out and show some big balls on Saturday. It’s going to be a massive game. We will need our fans to get behind us as they always do at home.
“We want to go out Saturday and put on a real show.
“If we keep performing like [against Stoke] I have no problems about us maintaining Premier League status.”
A return to St James’ Park should offer hope to Newcastle – who will assess Andros Townsend prior to kick-off – given they are unbeaten in their last three home fixtures, winning two.
Bournemouth, though, boast an excellent recent away record as a run of one defeat in their last 10 games on their travels in all competitions – at Arsenal in December – has lifted them eight points clear of the drop zone.
Benik Afobe’s four goals in eight starts since arriving from Wolves in January have seen the striker earn plenty of plaudits and mooted for a potential England call-up.
But the 23-year-old is only interested in keeping the Cherries, who have seen Joshua King and Junior Stanislas join Callum Wilson and Tyrone Mings on the sidelines, in the top flight.
“I know I’ve a long way before I can start claiming I have proved myself to be a top Premier League player,” Afobe told the Daily Mirror.
“As a forward you want to get in on the act of the goals but the most important thing was winning after four games without a win.
“My sole target was to win as many games as Bournemouth needed to stay up. The goals will come if you work well, if you work as a team, and I’m lucky enough that the goals have come.
“But it’s not about me, it’s about the team and against Southampton we got the clean sheet and win.”
Key Opta stats:
– This is Newcastle’s lowest tally of points after 27 games of a Premier League season (24).
– The Cherries have run the furthest of any Premier League side in 2015-16 so far (3,273kms).
– Afobe has scored four goals in his last seven Premier League appearances and Bournemouth have won three and drawn one of those games.
– All nine of Georginio Wijnaldum’s Premier League goals for Newcastle United have come at St James’ Park.
– Just 54 per cent of Newcastle’s passes have been in the opposition half this season – a lower proportion than every other team in the Premier League.