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Practice makes perfect for Andros Townsend

Andros Townsend has revealed the free-kick which hauled Newcastle out of the relegation zone was honed on Tottenham's training pitches.

Just a few months ago, the 24-year-old England international was out of favour at White Hart Lane and training with the second team, although all the while, he was awaiting his next chance.

That came when the Magpies invested £12million in his services in January, and his most telling contribution yet came on Saturday when he smashed a 58th-minute free-kick past Crystal Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey to clinch three priceless points.

Townsend said: "At the back end of last year, I used to stay out for hours practising free-kicks, left foot then right foot.

"It was frustrating, but all that hard work on the training field eventually pays off. It paid off in dividends against Palace - in front of 52,000 fans."

It was Townsend's fourth goal in 11 appearances in a black and white shirt and his third in the last five, but it was by some distance the most important yet.

He said: "I have scored goals when we were 5-0 down and 3-0 down, then a third goal in a 3-0 win against Swansea. But this is what you live for, moments like this when your team really needs it.

"I'm glad to repay the faith and hopefully in the last two games, I can contribute with more goals and assists."

Townsend and his team-mates have two games left in which to secure what just a few weeks ago looked like an unlikely escape, and they know they may have to win both - away to relegated Aston Villa and at home to high-flying Tottenham - if they are to survive.

However, with relegation rivals Sunderland and Norwich both having a game in hand, even that may not prove enough during what is sure to be a dramatic conclusion to the campaign.

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Benitez urges Newcastle players to rediscover passion

Benitez faces a tough task to keep Newcastle in the Premier League. Credit: PA

Rafael Benitez has challenged Newcastle to rediscover their "character and passion" or face slipping to Premier League relegation with a whimper.

Comical defending and a limp, frozen performance from Newcastle gifted Southampton an easy 3-1 league win at St Mary's on Saturday.

Shane Long, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama struck all too easily for Southampton, consigning Newcastle to a sixth defeat in a seven-match winless run.

Manager Benitez implored Newcastle's fuming fans to back his beleaguered side ahead of Saturday's critical home clash with Swansea, demanding a victory to keep the survival fight alive.

"Character and passion, and positive play - that's the very least of what is expected every game, for 90 minutes," said Benitez.

"But it is clear that that was very much lacking in the first half.

"That's not a situation that we can have away from home, so we have to make changes to how we'll play away from home.

"Before that we'll have to prepare for the next home game, and we just hope we can keep the fans behind us.

"It's very clear that we can say nothing to our fans.

"They come here to see the team fighting and winning and we didn't do that in the first half. So you have to understand their feelings.

"But we'll need support from the fans, we need them behind us to drive us on, to get a result against Swansea."

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Newcastle 'keeper ruled out of relegation fight

Goalkeeper Rob Elliot is out of both Newcastle's relegation fight and the Euro 2016 finals after being told he faces "a number of months" on the sidelines with a knee ligament injury.

The 29-year-old's worst fears were confirmed on Wednesday less than 24 hours after he damaged his anterior cruciate ligament in the act of making a save in the Republic of Ireland's 2-2 friendly draw with Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium.

Elliot was stretchered off. Credit: PA

An initial scan carried out in Dublin suggested the extent of the injury, but further tests back on Tyneside held no better news for Elliot.

A Newcastle statement said: "Newcastle United can confirm that goalkeeper Rob Elliot has sustained an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament, suffered during the Republic of Ireland's friendly fixture against Slovakia last night.

"Rob has returned to Newcastle and has been assessed this morning by the club's doctor. He will now commence a programme of treatment and rehabilitation.

"Regrettably, the severity of this injury will rule Rob out for a number of months. Everyone connected with Newcastle United wishes Rob the very best for his recovery."

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