By Ian Willis
MICHAEL Chopra was delighted to get his first Premiership start of the season against Aston Villa on Saturday - but was left disappointed at Newcastle's failure to take the three points.
Chopra has been on fire in the reserves this season, finding the net 11 times so far, but has been forced to play the waiting game at senior level with Alan Shearer, Michael Owen and Shola Ameobi all ahead of him in the striking pecking order.
But boss Graeme Souness handed Chopra a start alongside Shearer against Villa, with Ameobi operating on the left flank, and the Geordie striker put in a hard-working display that earned him an ovation from the fans when he was withdrawn eight minutes from time.
Chopra told nufc.co.uk: "I was happy to get a start, I'd been working hard in the reserves and I was dleighted when the gaffer told me on Friday i was going to be starting the game.
"It was a big game for us, there was a lot of pressure on us after the last three defeats and it was a big game for me to come into.
"But finding out the day before helped me get the nerves out of the way, and i enjoyed it.
"The manager asked me to do a job running the channels, and I did my best. I worked hard, and I think the fans appreciated that.
"They gave me an ovation when I came off near the end, and that meant a lot to me. I know the Geordie fans appreciate it when they see a player giving 100 per cent, and that's what I tried to do.
"It would have been nice to have scored a goal, but it wasn't a match where there were a lot of chances for us.
"I'm confident that goal will come sooner rather than later.
"I've said all the long that I am confident in my own ability. Hopefully the gaffer will have seen that i'm willing to work hard, and that I'll get another opportunity."
Chopra and the rest of the Newcastle camp were relieved to see Gareth Barry's 88th minute spot kick fly into the Leazes End, and he was determined to take the positives from the game even though the chance to get back to winning ways after three straight defeats passed them by.
He added: "I felt even before we scored, we were in the driving seat.
"They didn't really come at us, and the goal they scored was probably the only shot they had on target.
"Of course, we're disappointed not to win the game, but we worked hard, we showed we could battle, and we remain confident in the dressing room that we can move up the table.
"As a team, we have to remain confident in our ability. There's no point in being at a big club like Newcastle if that isn't the case."
Post-match reaction on Newcastle World TV