Trophy progress could be 'massive', says fit-again Ward
Written by Rory Mitchinson
Dan Ward feels that victory in Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy clash against Oldham Athletic can give Newcastle United Under-23s’ season “a massive lift”.
Peter Beardsley’s side were beaten 6-0 at Aston Villa last Monday night, and sit just a place off the bottom of the Premier League 2’s second tier after four successive defeats.
Elsewhere, their form has been mixed. They kicked off their Premier League International Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Sparta Prague a fortnight ago, but their Trophy ambitions took a hit following a 1-0 loss at Port Vale.
The latter result means that the Magpies head to Boundary Park knowing that only a win inside 90 minutes will make sure of their progress to the last 32, although a draw and a penalty shootout victory could yet prove sufficient.
In any case, Ward believes that a prolonged run in the competition can give the young guns’ campaign a much-needed shot in the arm.
“It’d give everyone a massive lift. It’d be great to go there and get the win, and that’s what we need to do to qualify. It’d be fantastic for everyone,” he told nufc.co.uk. “Obviously, we’ve had a bit of time to reflect (on the Aston Villa result). We’ve tried to stay positive. We’ve been training hard and we’ve managed to keep the morale pretty high. We’re going into the game with a positive mindset, trying to get a positive result.
“We have a good group of trainers – we train well. Obviously, the results we’ve had lately haven’t been great, but we’re a hardworking bunch of lads and we’ve got faith that results will change if we stick to our guns.”
If selected by Beardsley, it will be a first taste of Trophy action for 20-year-old Ward, who missed the first three months of the campaign with an ankle problem.
Prior to making his return against Sparta, the No. 10 had not featured since the Magpies’ 3-0 win at Gateshead in July – a game in which he scored – but, after clocking up 90 minutes against Villa, he insists he is feeling like his old self once more.
“I went over on my ankle in the Gateshead game, and at first, I didn’t think it was too bad,” he recalled. “I managed to play on until the end of the game, but the next day I woke up and I was in absolute agony.
“I had a scan and the scan didn’t come back great, so I was out for just over three months. But, thanks to Si (Tweddle, fitness coach) and Carl (Nelson, physiotherapist), and all the physio staff, I feel good and I feel fit. I’m just looking forward to every game that keeps coming and I’ll just be trying to help the team get a good result on Tuesday night.”
Photograph courtesy of Neville Williams/Aston Villa Football Club
"It’d give everyone a massive lift. It’d be great to go there and get the win, and that’s what we need to do to qualify. It’d be fantastic for everyone."