Magpies in a position of strength as pair return

First published in Newcastle United News, Match Reports, Fixtures, Results & Tables The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

Blackburn Rovers 0 Newcastle United 2

IF Newcastle United's Senegalese strikeforce are looking for a lift after their Africa Cup of Nations disaster, they need look no further than the Premier League table.

Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba are due to return to Tyneside this morning and when they do they can forget about their country's failings on the international stage and start to concentrate on a tilt at Europe.

With the assistance of plenty of good fortune, wasteful Blackburn finishing and some excellent defending, Newcastle left Ewood Park sitting fifth and just three points off a Champions League spot.

Make no mistake, this was not a memorable performance from the Magpies and to say a two-goal win flattered them is an understatement.

But despite Blackburn's 20 shots on Tim Krul's goal, including a first half penalty save from David Dunn, Newcastle secured the points that left their opponents deep in relegation trouble.

Ryan Taylor's long range shot which deflected off Scott Dann and found its way over the line early on broke the deadlock.

And then after much of the game had been spent trying to prevent an equaliser, French substitute Gabriel Obertan ran clear in stoppage time to cap the hard-earned win with his first for the club.

Even in the absence of Yohan Cabaye the decision was made to stick with the system which had contributed to successive defeats to Fulham and Brighton and it had looked like backfiring.

Cabaye met confirmation of being hit with a three-match ban for violent conduct yesterday morning by tweeting "in my team-mates I trust" and he had every reason to - defensively any way.

With Taylor sitting alongside Danny Guthrie in the holding midfield roles, there was a need for the three-man supply to lone strike Shola Ameobi to be effective. And it was - initially, anyway.

Leon Best, operating wide left, had already created a decent chance for Ameobi, who was denied by Jason Lowe at the near post, before Newcastle got the early breakthrough they had been hoping for.

When Rovers defenders Lowe and Dann left Radosav Petrovic's pass for one another in the 12th minute, Best nipped in and took control.

His pass inside to Jonas Gutierrez was rolled on to Taylor, who took a touch before watching his relatively harmless looking shot from 22 yards deflect off the boot of Dann and into Robinson's net.

After that the majority of Best's most effective play was carried out defensively. After Danny Simpson had cleared a header from Gael Givet off the line, Blackburn sensed a quick equaliser.

And while it never arrived, it should have. Through a combination of a poor final ball and strong last line defending, Newcastle kept them at bay.

Junior Hoilett and Morten Gamst Pedersen found gaps regularly enough, but there was more often than not a covering man back to deny them.

The pick was when Fabricio Coloccini, back in the team after injury at the expense of James Perch, raced back to thwart Anthony Modeste with a fantastic block.

Almost all of the remaining 17 minutes of the first half was spent camped in the Newcastle half. Best turned a Pedersen corner on to his own crossbar, while an even greater chance was to come.

With two minutes of the half remaining, Simpson barged into the back of Modeste to concede a penalty after Dunn's clever chip into the area.

But goalkeeper Tim Krul got down to his left to deny Dunn's spot-kick and the Dutchman was also on hand to hold the rebound from Pedersen.

Pleased to hear the whistle, Pardew needed to find a way of altering the flow of the game. Having watched Blackburn create nine good chances in the first half, a similar amount after the restart would have surely resulted in a goal.

He brought on Perch to play alongside Guthrie and adopted the more orthodox two-striker system, scrapping the formation which Blackburn had managed to expose regularly.

And it worked. Blackburn were nowhere near as dominant, although they still should have equalised when Petrovic played a clever pass behind the Newcastle defence shortly after the break.

The pass had enough weight on it to tempt Krul to come charging from goal, but the wasteful Modeste, making his full debut after arriving on loan from Bordeaux, stupidly opted to look for a pass instead of finding the empty net.

Newcastle remained ahead and from that moment on they had more possession in the Blackburn half, even if it rarely came to much.

Chances were less frequent at the opposite end, yet Blackburn still had the better of them. Krul had to be on hand to deny Dann when he worked his way behind the defence to head a Pedersen free-kick goalbound from close-range.

And with time running out, Blackburn still should have claimed a point. Substitute Mauro Formica found the side netting from eight yards when he was put through on goal, while much of the final ten minutes were spent back in the Newcastle box.

But Newcastle stood firm, laying the foundations for Obertan to burst through in stoppage time to cement the win and keep the hopes of a push for Europe strong.


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