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Sunderland earn a draw at Villa

Sunderland
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By ESPN Staff

Kinnear faces struggle with mounting injuries

Newcastle boss Joe Kinnear's worst fears are in danger of coming true as injuries blight his attempts to drag the club out of trouble.

The 61-year-old was this week forced to write midfielder Joey Barton out of his plans until the new year after he damaged knee ligaments during the 2-2 Premier League draw with Wigan on Saturday.

Central defender Steven Taylor missed that game and the one which preceded it at Fulham with an abdominal muscle injury, and while he is battling to be fit for the trip to Chelsea this weekend, time is against him.

Taylor said: "I am doing everything I can to be available for selection on Saturday, but I still have not been able to train properly.

"I am desperate to play, but the last thing I want to do is to come back and break down. If I don't make it for Chelsea, then I will be very optimistic of being ready for the game at Middlesbrough a week on Saturday.''

Just last week, Kinnear admitted the depth of the squad he inherited from Kevin Keegan would be seriously tested if injuries struck.

He already has Mark Viduka, Alan Smith and loan signing Ignacio Gonzalez on the long-term casualty list, although the Australian striker is back in training and his manager hopes he could be available within a matter of weeks.

Summer signing Xisco is currently out with a hamstring problem, but skipper Michael Owen is champing at the bit after scoring as a substitute against Wigan in a third appearance from the bench following his return from a groin injury.

Owen's most recent absence has been covered in part by the return to form of forgotten man Shola Ameobi, while Obafemi Martins has demonstrated his ability to find the back of the net even when he is not at his best with four goals in his last four games.

However, Newcastle's lack of depth at the back is a much bigger concern with Kinnear having turned initially to Claudio Cacapa and then the inexperienced Sebastien Bassong with Taylor in the treatment room.

Bassong is a central defender by trade, but has played much of his football since his summer move from Metz at left-back, where £6.3million specialist Jose Enrique is yet to make the position his own.

Habib Beye has managed to achieve that on the right, but there is little or no cover for the Senegal international.

Newcastle are more than capable of scoring goals - they have struck twice in five of their last seven games.

But they have won only two of those matches having also conceded twice in five of them, and have kept only two clean sheets in 15 outings in all competitions.

Kinnear has already admitted the squad will need strengthening in January whoever owns the club and whoever the manager is, and he has already started to identify potential targets in case he remains in charge of team affairs.

Perhaps significantly, executive director (football) Dennis Wise, the man controversially charged with overseeing player recruitment, has been a conspicuous presence, both on Tyneside and on club business, in recent days.

That would tend to suggest preparations are being made behind the scenes to move should owner Mike Ashley fail to sell the club in the immediate future.

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