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Newcastle United Hit By Striker Blow

Newcastle United have been dealt massive striking blow as Leon Best has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

The 24-year-old Republic of Ireland international has missed the Magpies last two Premier League matches with an ankle problem, but the club have now been forced to announce his season is over as Best needs to go under the surgeons' knife.

A statement from Newcastle said: "After assessment by the club's medical staff, Best will travel to London later this week for an operation."

The ankle surgery means Best will miss Newcastle's remaining Premier League games, so manager Alan Pardew faces a striking shortage as his side battle to avoid the drop, starting with a game against Aston Villa.

Bookmakers have Newcastle at 17/5 to get the win, with Aston Villa priced at 20/21 and the draw 11/4.

A morale-boosting 4-0 win over Wolves at St James' Park last time out was a welcome boost for Newcastle as they had been beaten in their previous two matches.

Despite rising to ninth in the table, Newcastle are only seven points ahead of the Premier League relegation places (Newcastle 40/1 to go down) and cannot get complacent in their remaining games as a few bad results could see them dragged into the danger zone.

Ever since Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool for an inflated figure of £35 million in January Newcastle have been short on strikers, but Best had an impressive ratio of six goals in 10 league starts for the club this season.

This included a hat-trick in the win over West Ham in January, a game that saw his first start of the season after being out with a long-term injury that saw him miss the first half of the campaign.

With Best now ruled out it leaves Shola Ameobi (15/2 to score first vs Villa) as the main forward for Newcastle, with Peter Lovenkrands, Nile Ranger and Shefki Kuqi providing cover for him.

Ameobi scored his first goal since January 2nd in the win over Wolves but he is playing through the pain barrier as he wears a mask to protect a fractured cheekbone he suffered in February.

With Lovenkrands (7/1 to open the scoring vs Villa) a winger by trade, Ranger highly inexperienced and Kuqi a journeyman with little Premier League pedigree, then it could be a big worry for Newcastle fans to have to pin so much hope on that trio.

The sooner Pardew's side win enough points to virtually secure their Premier League status for next season the better. They face fellow strugglers Aston Villa this weekend, with matches against Manchester United and Blackpool (8/11 to be relegated) following.

If Newcastle beat Villa (13/2 to be relegated with bookmakers) that would take them above the 40 points mark for the season and possibly give them enough of a cushion to breathe a huge sigh of relief and take some of the pressure off the strikers over the following six games.



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