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Bruce confirms duo's return to training

Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce has confirmed that Allan Saint-Maximin and Jonjo Shelvey have stepped up their recoveries from injury – but said Tuesday’s FA Cup replay against Rochdale would come too soon for the pair.

Winger Saint-Maximin has missed the last month after picking up a hamstring problem in the win over Southampton in December, while the influential Shelvey – who has five goals to his name this season – was withdrawn at half time during the 3-0 defeat to Leicester on New Year’s Day.

But Bruce, who saw Paul Dummett and Dwight Gayle limp out of Saturday’s draw at Wolves, has been boosted by the news that two of his first team regulars are on their way back at a time when the United squad has been ravaged by injuries.

And the Magpies boss insists that with a place in the fourth round on the line he will play the strongest team he can put together for the visit of League One’s Dale (7:45pm kick-off), who earned a 1-1 draw in the first meeting as Aaron Wilbraham cancelled out Miguel Almirón’s opener at Spotland.

“Obviously Dummett and Gayle will have scans this morning – they’ll not be involved tomorrow,” said Bruce. “But we’ve got one or two back on the grass. Allan Saint-Maximin is back training – he’s trained for the last two days. I think tomorrow will be a bit early, the same goes for Shelvey, so instead of 12 or 13 we’ve probably got eight or nine (out), so things are looking up.

“I’ve said since I walked through the door here that we will play as strong as we possibly can, and that’s not going to change. We’ve got a wonderful chance. We’ve got to dispatch Rochdale at home.

“They made it difficult for us in the second half. For me, the game should have been put to be in the first half, but it wasn’t, so we’ve got a replay to play and we’ll go as strong as we possibly can.”

A home tie against another League One outfit, Oxford United, awaits the winners of Tuesday’s contest at St. James’ Park.

Beyond that, a place in the fifth round is on offer, and Bruce – who led Hull City to the FA Cup final in 2014 – reiterated his intention to “have a go” at getting Newcastle into the latter stages of a competition he won three times during his playing career.

“I’ve said all along that I don’t think it does any harm. For too many years, we haven’t had any cup run at all, so it doesn’t do any harm to have a cup run – I’ve learned that from my experiences,” he said. “So let’s try and tackle it head-on, like I said when I first walked through the door.

“Nothing’s changed. We’ve got an opportunity. We’ve got (to beat) two League One teams to be in the fifth round. Let’s have a go for it. Why not?”

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