Jack Colback reveals what Newcastle need to do in the Championship run-in

Newcastle United's Jack Colback.

Newcastle United's Jack Colback.

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Jack Colback says Newcastle United must “hold their nerve” in the Championship run-in.

Rafa Benitez’s side lead the Championship by three points ahead of Saturday’s home game against Fulham.

The league leaders took seven points from a run of three tough away games.

And Newcastle, unbeaten in 11 games, could have one foot in the Premier League early next month if they can maintain their form.

United held Reading to a goalless draw at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night.

They had the better of the first half, but tired after the break as their exertions away from caught up with them.

“It’s about holding our nerve,” said midfielder Colback.

“We’ve put ourselves in a great position with two fantastic wins away and then a draw at Reading.

“We’ve been consistent all year round. We’ve had the odd slip-up, but we’ve always reacted and that shows the strength and the spirit we have in this team now.

“It’s about keeping the consistency up now, and then we’ll get the points we need.”

Newcastle beat Brighton and Hove Albion and Hudderfield Town, the league’s second and third-placed teams respectively, last week.

Reading play a similar possession-based system to Brighton and Huddersfield.

And Colback, enjoying a run in Benitez’s team in the absence through injury of Isaac Hayden, feels Benitez’s tactic of letting them have more of the ball, and playing on the counter-attack, worked well.

“The three approaches haven’t been to dissimilar because Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading all like to keep the ball, and they do so really well.

“So the gameplan in that sense has been similar in terms of letting them have the ball more than we usually would and then looking to hurt them on the counter, and things like that.

“The Brighton and Huddersfield games worked perfectly, then against Reading we had chances with Matty (Ritchie) hitting the post and Gouff (Yoan Gouffran) looked like he might tap it in from two yards, but it didn’t quite happen.

“But we got a point and now we move forward.”

United’s seven-point haul has put them in a strong position going into the final 10 games of the season.

“Seven points is a very good return for us from nine, particularly when you look at the games and the opposition,” said Colback. “We’re very happy with that.”

Newcastle had a dismal record away from home in the Premier League last season, yet this term Benitez’s side have eqaulled the club record set by Kevin Keegan’s team in 1992-93.

“We know the away form wasn’t good last season, but we’ve strong away this year,” said 27-year-old Colback.

“It’s not always been pretty wins or pretty results, but in this league particularly you’ve got to learn to grind out wins.

“That’s what we’ve been doing, and that’s down to the squad we’ve got now and the spirit we’ve got, which has been a big factor in ensuring we’ve picked up results away from home.

“We haven’t always played that well with the ball, but we’re getting results.

“We’ve just got to keep going now. Take each game as it comes, and this is another point towards the ultimate goal of promotion.”

Benitez said earlier in the season that Newcastle needed to “learn how to draw” when they weren’t at their best.

“We’d only drawn one game until a few weeks ago, and we were losing games when we shouldn’t have done really,” said Colback.

“But we’re a very solid team without the ball, teams find it difficult to break us down, and it’s normally a lucky goal or a bit of poor fortune on our part when we do concede.

“We’ve used that as our basis to be our solid team and we’ve also got the quality to ensure we can get the draw or win whenever we can.”

United’s form hasn’t been so good at St James’s Park, and that’s something Colback and his team-mates want to address.

“We’ve not been too bad at home, but we’ve had games when we’ve come up short,” said Colback.

“And it can be difficult because teams come to St James’s Park and sit in. It’s a huge occasion for them and every team seems to lift their game.

“Even coming away from home, we find stadiums with a lot more fans than these teams normally have for other games.

“It’s a big games for teams playing against us. We’ve got to deal with that, and at home teams sit in more.

“We can find it frustrating at times, but we’re on a good run, we’re not dwelling on our home form or anything, we’re top of the league and if we keep doing what we have been doing then we’ll be fine.”