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Williamson expects derby to 'shape Newcastle's season'
MIKE Williamson claims this month's Wear-Tyne derby with Sunderland will "shape Newcastle United's season".
With no Premier League fixtures scheduled for this weekend because of the international break, the Magpies will return to action at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, October 21.
Last season, Newcastle's 1-0 win on Wearside had major repercussions for both clubs with the Magpies avoiding defeat in their next nine matches while the Black Cats won just two of their next 12 games.
The stakes are set to be every bit as high this time around, and with both North-East clubs having suffered 3-0 defeats to opponents from Manchester last weekend, their respective seasons are on something of a knife-edge.
"The next game has the potential to shape our season, of course it does," said Williamson, who will hope to retain his place in the back four despite the possible return of both Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor in 12 days time. "It's been a bit stop-start so far so this is a massive opportunity for us.
"Our target is to go there and get three points and it could well be a springboard for us. We've got the players and the squad to go there and win it.
"The next two weeks will be all about that. We've got to look forward, physically and mentally, to going there and winning."
Only two points separate Newcastle and Sunderland in the Premier League table, so the victors a week on Sunday are guaranteed to claim regional top spot.
Both sides have made adequate starts to the campaign, but neither has really set the world alight, a situation that makes the first derby meeting all the more important in terms of generating momentum and morale.
"It's a massive game," said Williamson. "The build-up starts here - the fans are talking about it, the media are already hyping it up and rightly so, it's a massive game that means more than three points.
"I think the lads - the majority of us - have played in them and won in them. We know what they're all about and we'll be ready."
On the evidence of the opening two months of the season, it can be argued that Newcastle boast the more potent strike force of the regional rivals while Sunderland are blessed with the more reliable defence.
Sunday's game was the fourth occasion on which the Magpies have conceded two or more goals in a Premier League game this season - Sunderland have only done it twice - and the lack of defensive organisation as Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra scored early headers was an alarming sight.
The absence of Coloccini, Taylor and the injured Tim Krul clearly hasn't helped in recent matches, and Williamson accepts Newcastle's rearguard has been far from watertight this term.
"As a defence we're working just as hard as we did last season," he said. "We're doing the same things, but maybe we're not getting the rub of the green.
"It's just the fact that we need to get a bit more consistency. We need to put everything together like we did against Bordeaux on Thursday and cut out the errors that contributed against Man United.
"I don't think there's a big problem there, stability is the key . You want a settled XI and you want a back four that are working together, but it's a squad game and we've had lots of games to contend with.
"The players that have come in have done very well and that's why it was so much more disappointing on Sunday. We believed we could win the game and believed we could keep them out."