Best fills Ba's boots with brilliant winner

The Northern Echo: BEST FOOT FORWARD: Leon Best fires the winner for Newcastle BEST FOOT FORWARD: Leon Best fires the winner for Newcastle

ALAN PARDEW might be in the market to sign a striker in the absence of Demba Ba, but Leon Best provided the Newcastle United manager with a timely reminder that he already has a capable deputy for the club's top scorer.

Just as he was 12 months ago, when Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool, Best was thrown into the cauldron and shouldered with the responsibility of providing Newcastle with goals.

Pardew may still bring in a new forward to boost his attacking options in the second half of the season.

But a superb goal from Best to claim maximum points against Queens Park Rangers yesterday will remind Pardew of what he has to offer while Ba is away on African Nations Cup duty.

While he may not have scored as many goals as Pardew would have wanted this season, Best came up with the goods when they were needed.

There was a worry when Newcastle lost their top scorer that they may struggle to maintain the form that has consolidated their position in the Premier League's top eight.

However, a third home win at the beginning of 2012 has seen Pardew's men get off to the best possible start to temporary life without Ba and Cheik Tiote.

Liverpool's failure to beat Stoke City at Anfield on Saturday provided Newcastle with the opportunity to move above the Merseysiders into sixth.

Despite a shaky start from the Magpies, Best's goal - and the influence of substitute Ben Arfa - was enough to secure the win and take advantage of Saturday's results.

The visitors did start brightly though, with Shaun Wright-Phillips getting the first shot in on Tim Krul's goal.

A mistake from Davide Santon saw the Italian head the ball into the path of Luke Young. The full back played the ball across the Magpies box to Wright-Phillips, but his low shot was saved by the Dutch keeper.

Krul was again called into action minutes later when Akos Buzsaky unleashed a stinging effort from long range, but the Magpies keeper was on hand to parry the ball away.

Newcastle were soaking up the early pressure, but they weren't creating anything meaningful going forward, leaving the back line exposed and under pressure.

Rangers continued to press, forcing Ryan Taylor to get caught in possession on the edge of the area.

The ball fell to Wright-Phillips again, but luckily for Newcastle, his strike clipped the bar and went over.

Taylor saw two free-kicks headed over, first by Gutierrez then Best, before he tried his own luck from range after good build-up play involving Fabricio Coloccini and Best, but Kenny did well to push the ball past his post.

It was better from the hosts, but it had followed another chance for QPR, which saw Jay Bothroyd's shot roll inches past Krul's post.

Newcastle were growing into the game as the half progressed and despite the visitors enjoying the bulk of the chances, Pardew's side took the lead.

Some good work from Taylor saw the midfielder play in Best, with the striker producing a fantastic piece of footwork to side-step Young and finish low into Kenny's far corner.

It was perhaps a lead the Magpies didn't deserve, but the introduction of Ben Arfa just under ten minutes earlier to replace the injured Yohan Cabaye lifted everyone in the stadium and they inevitably gained much-needed confidence from the goal.

Mark Hughes' men had two chances to draw level early in the second half, both through Bothroyd.

A Heider Helguson knockdown found the England international inside the area but he blazed his shot over.

The striker then forced a good save from Krul, Helguson again the provider, but the Magpies held on and continued their search for a second.

Ben Arfa's introduction had created a buzz around St James' Park and the Frenchman continued to pull the strings in midfield with some brilliant passing.

A searching cross-field ball found Santon on the left with the full back controlling and cutting inside past two defenders before unleashing a low shot, which was deflected wide.

The visitors were still enjoying bouts of possession in the second half, but the Magpies were firmly in control and creating more.

Danny Simpson's header appeared to come off the arm of Clint Hill, but the penalty claims fell on deaf ears.

Moments later, Kenny was almost caught out when he raced off his line to clear the ball.

Under pressure from Simpson, he conceded a throw-in taken quickly by Ben Arfa to Gutierrez, but the Argentine's goal- bound shot was cleared by Ferdinand to spare his keeper's blushes.

Ben Arfa continued to dazzle and produced a superb through ball to play in Best, but his shot was cleared with the rebound falling just behind the oncoming Shola Ameobi.

Pardew admitted after the game that he had been tempted to start the mercurial Frenchman, but again he kept both the player and the crowd waiting - and again it paid off.

The Magpies boss has continued to limit the midfielder to second-half cameos, but an extended shift yesterday reminded everyone of the talent and quality Ben Arfa brings to Newcastle.

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