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May 7, 2013

Pardew counting on half-fit Ben Arfa

Alan Pardew believes Hatem Ben Arfa could prove key in securing Newcastle's Premier League status for next season despite the forward's continuing struggles with his fitness.

The 25-year-old has endured an injury-plagued campaign for the Magpies, and was ruled out for the rest of the season by Pardew back in March. The Frenchman returned against Benfica last month, since when the Magpies have scored just one goal in four league games, something Pardew admits must be redressed.

"Goal scoring is what wins games," he told the Journal. "We've got to improve that area for next week.

"Ben Arfa has been struggling. This hamstring, he has a slight weakness in there, and it won't even be strong I don't think for six, seven weeks. He was terrific on Saturday and he's a match-winner. We've been bringing him on in the second half but we missed him when we took him off. He gives us that little thrust."

With Ben Arfa still not fully fit, Newcastle are also sweating on the fitness of veteran striker Shola Ameobi. The Nigerian international left Upton Park on crutches Saturday with a potential knee problem. Leaving the club hamstrung in attack, Pardew is hopeful Ameobi can overcome the knock and play some part in his side's visit to Queens Park Rangers on Sunday.

"Shola unfortunately hurt his knee almost the first shot he had," he said. "So we were actually carrying Shola for the rest of the game. It was unfortunate we couldn't push for the goal. We knew the Wigan score so we were pushing where we could. I think for Hatem another week's work will get him closer. Hopefully Shola is okay.

"We wanted to show we are together. We have stayed focused on being safe and playing in the Premier League next season. That is the most important thing. We know we are going to play well if we are focused together and stay together."

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