Classy Cabaye raises Newcastle's sights

Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 1
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The Independent Football

It is not for the want of trying on the part of Yohan Cabaye that Newcastle United's place in the Premier League's upper reaches remains a journey high on economy.

Five unbeaten games in 2011-12 have brought his new club only four goals and, as with Aston Villa, a tag as early-season draw specialists. That the stylish midfielder did not turn one point into three here, though, was largely down to the excellence of a man to whom he might aspire in his pursuit of hero-worship status on Tyneside.

Shay Given, facing Newcastle for the first time since playing 463 games for them, denied the France international with a brilliant late save and forced him to scoop a narrow-angled stoppage-time effort off target. When he could not lay a glove on another excellent shot just before the equaliser, the crossbar did his work for him.

Cabaye, recruited from French Double winners Lille for close to £5m, could well have broken his English duck on the same day as his former team-mate Gervinho did, but Alan Pardew still believes he has quite a player.

"If we can get him on the ball, he's outstanding," the Newcastle manager said. "That's why he's in the French team. He has the gift of a pass and his vision is his quality. Shay was in our [overnight] hotel and we were trying to slip him a drink or two. He is a great signing for them."

Leon Best's scruffy 57th-minute finish – his third league goal of the season – rescued the point that was the least Newcastle deserved, after Gabby Agbonlahor had drawn first blood on his 200th start for the club.

Villa again flattered in a fourth draw out of five, and their manager Alex McLeish, like his team, is striving to win over sceptical fans. The send-off at the end suggested that he still has much to do in that department.

Scorers: Aston Villa Agbonlahor 13. Newcastle Best 57. Substitutes: A Villa Ireland 6 (Petrov, 68), Albrighton 6 (Bannan, 67), Delfouneso (Bent, 85). Newcastle Shola Ameobi 6 (Best, 69), Marveaux (Ba, 80), Sammy Ameobi (Gutierrez, 85). Booked: A Villa Collins. Newcastle Best. Man of the match Cabaye.

Match rating 7/10. Possession: A Villa 45% Newcastle 55%. Attempts on target: A Villa 8 Newcastle 8. Referee N Swarbrick (Lancashire).

Attendance 34,248.