Obertan eyes starting spot
European hero Gabriel Obertan has set his sights on the Barclays Premier League after providing manager Alan Pardew with a timely reminder of what he can do.
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The 23-year-old produced an accomplished finish to see off Club Brugge at St James' Park last night and put the Magpies in pole position to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Europa League.
It was the latest encouraging display in the competition from the former Manchester United midfielder, who has struggled to force his way into Pardew's strongest starting XI since arriving on Tyneside in August last year.
However, Obertan, who is likely to return to the bench for Sunday's league clash with West Brom, will not be content simply to be wheeled out for midweek games along with youngsters Sammy Ameobi and Shane Ferguson, who also produced the goods when given the chance last night.
He said: "We don't get to play much in the Premier League, so we wanted to show the gaffer that we could have a starting position in the Premier League.
"I feel I've done pretty well in the Europa League and I'll wait for that position to come. I'm not going to give up. I trust myself.
"It was good - it was my first goal at St James' Park. It feels good for the confidence. For an offensive player like myself, it's just great."
In a tight encounter, it was Obertan's 48th-minute strike which proved decisive, although if his finish was assured, it was the combination between the Ameobi bothers, Shola and Sammy, which handed him his big chance.
Shola picked out Sammy with a neat flick which the 20-year-old skillfully lifted over his marker before heading upfield at pace to pick out the Frenchman.
Obertan still had plenty to do, but his right-foot drive was too powerful for keeper Bojan Jorgacevic, who was powerless to prevent it from sailing inside his far post.
He said: "It was a really good move. Sammy managed to keep the ball and do some tricks.
"I was at the right position at the right time. I had some time on the ball, which is sometimes hard, but I had the coolness to finish it."
It was not all plan sailing, however, as keeper Steve Harper had to make a solid save to deny Lior Rafaelov before skipper-for-the-night Steven Taylor blocked substitute Ivan Trickovski's late effort with his face amid a determined fightback, but the home side prevailed.
Harper said: "He [Taylor] is very good at that. I always take the mickey out of him because he deflects a lot past me in training - but he saves a lot more than he deflects past me.
"He's a proper defender and when I'm coaching the kids, I always tell them it hurts more if it goes in the net.
"Steven is one of those who proves that. He puts his body on the line. It was a super block at an important time."
Pardew, who made nine changes for last night's game, is likely to restore his big guns to the starting line-up for the visit of the Baggies, although Cheick Tiote will be missing as he starts a three-game ban.
Albion were one of only three sides - the others were Chelsea and champions Manchester City - to win at St James' Park last season when Paul Scharner's late strike secured a 3-2 victory on December 21, a night the manager will not forget in a hurry.
Pardew said: "It was one of my disappointing games here last year. We were too open and they hurt us on the break a few times.
"They have got real pace in the team and you have got to be careful when you attack West Brom.
"West Brom are probably the surprise team of the season so far, so it's a tough game."