Date:Sunday February 13 2011
If, following the goal fest of last week, we needed a reminder of just how much Andy Carroll will be missed, the stalemate at Blackburn was a stark reminder. A glut of half-chances went begging but more than that, in a game where we needed to pick out something different to break the deadlock, the big fellas departure has left a gaping hole.
Shola was, surprisingly to most of us, apparently in the mood to take up the reign of local hero until his recent injury. Even given his decent goals to games ratio, Leon Best hasn't convinced anybody he's the man to fire us to safety and Lovenkrands is a shadow of his former self. Nile Ranger is enthusiastic and surprisingly composed and mature on the ball outside of the box, but given the ball in front of goal, he's as flaky as a Greggs pastie.
In fact, despite his poor form, Lovenkrands came closest to breaking the deadlock but his early lob hit the bar after a superb flighted through ball from Enrique. That followed a good chance at the other end, when Roque Santa Cruz hit Harper's post, when scoring seemed easier.
Starting with the same side, Pardew's eleven made a much better start to the game than they did against Arsenal last week. And they kept that momentum throughout a game in which, the only thing they lacked was a killer instinct. Disproving the theory that he'd gone off the boil in recent weeks, Enrique had a stormer at left back with virtually all good things involving him.
Newcastle dominated proceedings until the break without causing any real threat in front of goal other than the Lovenkrands chance and a couple of great balls from Enrique.
Into the second half, and the best chance fell to Coloccini from a Barton corner. The Argentine chested down the flighted ball, before lifting it over the defender and cracking a great left volley which Robinson did well to palm over.
An enforced change saw James Perch replace the injured Danny Simpson, with the replacement having a steady enough game to ease supporters nerves. Ranger came on for Lovenkrands a minute later but his enthusiasm and energy wasn't enough to unsettle the home defenders.
And with minutes remaining Shefki Kuqi made a cameo on the ground where he'd once been in the home trenches. Pardew has carved out a 'supersub' role for Kuqi by all accounts but it was asking a bit much to expect any sort of impact in three minutes, although if his touch had been better, the headline might have been slightly different.
Most Newcastle supporters are probably pleasantly surprised that we find ourselves in a slightly more comfortable position at this stage, than we might have expected at the start of the season. But there's still a long way to go safety and there's undoubtedly a need for heroes.
Effectively replacing Andy Carroll with Shefki Kuqi is a bit like replacing your spanking new motor with a battered old run around. It appears sturdy enough from the outside but you're just not sure how reliable it's going to be and well, it's just a banger really, especially after that mean machine of yours that someone's driven off into the sunset with.
Frustratingly, everything until the final third was almost immaculate and there was encouraging play from the middle, where refreshingly more than one Newcastle player wanted to put their foot on the ball. But goals and points are what counts, we can only hope they come from some where.
Harper 7, Simpson 7 (Perch 6), Williamson 5, Coloccini 7, Enrique 9, Barton 8, Tiote 8, Nolan 7, Gutierrez 6, Best 5, Lovenkrands 5 (Ranger 6).
Date:Sunday February 13 2011
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