Barton's joy as Newcastle close in on promotion

Peterborough 2 Newcastle United 3: Midfielder's goal on comeback means club can seal Premier League return today
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The Independent Football

Joey Barton wouldn't be everyone's choice as a late invite to a party, as the team-mate who received a cigar in the eye at Manchester City's 2004 Christmas bash would no doubt testify, but the midfielder has timed his comeback from injury perfectly to coincide with Newcastle's promotion celebrations.

The 27-year-old marked his first start since suffering a broken foot in September by scoring his side's second goal in the 3-2 win at Peterborough on Saturday, which means an instant return to the Premier League is imminent.

The inevitable looks set to be confirmed tonight when Sheffield United are the visitors to St James' Park, where only a point is needed for champagne and brown ale bottles to be opened across the city. Indeed, it could even happen before kick-off if Nottingham Forest, who possess a merely theoretical chance of overhauling them, drop points in their home game with Cardiff City earlier in the day.

Barton is likely to be back on the bench as Chris Hughton, the manager, rewards players who have been more regular contributors, but the former England man, capped once three years ago, was not complaining. Instead, he dedicated his 48th-minute free-kick to Newcastle's medical staff, having celebrated it on the touchline with physiotherapists Dave Henderson and Derek Wright and doctor Paul Catterson.

"They have spent a lot of time with me to get it right so that goal was for them," he said. "They were probably sick of me come the end but they were great with me and I thank them for that. I'm delighted to be back and it was great to get a start. It has been a long, hard road for me toiling away in the gym.

"But moments like this are what it's about and are worth the hard work that goes into getting back. I still feel like I can get a lot sharper and show what I'm about. But it's just great to be back for now and is a privilege to come back into this squad."

Barton's previous indiscretions ensured he was barracked by the home fans at London Road but his earlier attempts at putting a free-kick in the right place had all deserved catcalls. "After all the ones he took before, we were all surprised to see that one go in," Hughton admitted.

Indeed, Newcastle were made to work hard for the three points by the Championship's bottom side, who expect their relegation to be confirmed at Barnsley today.

Dominic Green gave Posh an 11th-minute lead after Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper collided with one of his own defenders. Kevin Nolan equalised in first-half stoppage time but it came against the run of play. Barton's set-piece success changed that story and Shola Ameobi's effort from outside the box made it 3-1.

Peterborough did not give up, though, and were rewarded with a consolation from Liam Dickinson, although the striker soon had to go off with a hamstring injury, forcing his side to finish with 10 men as all three replacements had been used.

Dickinson, who is on loan from Brighton and likely to be leaving along with manager Jim Gannon at the end of the season, admitted it had been a thrill to have played against some of the Newcastle players.

"I'm a big Man United fan so to play against Alan Smith was brilliant," he said. "I didn't get a chance to speak to him, though, because I was off down the tunnel to ice the hamstring."

Peterborough (4-1-4-1): Lewis; Gilbert, Zakuani, Geohaghon, Griffiths; Lee (Bennett, 55); Frecklington, Torres (Mackail-Smith, 46), Rowe, Green (Simpson, 46); Dickinson. Substitutes not used: McKeown (gk), Day, Mills, Reid.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Enrique; Pancrate (Routledge, 46), Smith, Nolan, Barton (Gutierrez, 84); Best, Ameobi (Butt, 83). Substitutes not used: Lovenkrands, Taylor, Krul (gk), Kadar.

Referee: M Haywood (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Peterborough Zakuani; Newcastle Best, Gutierrez.

Man of the match: Nolan.

Attendance: 12,877.