'Desperate' times for Pardew and sliding Newcastle
Newcastle United 2 West Bromwich Albion 3
St James' Park
Thursday 22 December 2011
Two more goals from Demba Ba were not enough to slow Newcastle United's worrying decline after their splendid start to the season.
Strikes from Peter Odemwingie, Gareth McAuley and Paul Scharner earned West Bromwich Albion their fourth away win of the season and left Alan Pardew's team with just two points from their last six games.
While the Albion manager, Roy Hodgson, surely did not include them among the dozen teams he considers to be relegation candidates, Newcastle are being sucked back into the pack at an alarming rate.
Now they head into January with other clubs eyeing their best players and certain to be deprived of Ba and Cheick Tioté, who will be involved in the African Cup of Nations.
Pardew said: "Demba was terrific. He was the pick of the bunch with two great goals and a great all-round display. It typified his season. But six games without a win is a concern and that was evident tonight. The crowd were a bit desperate and we were a bit desperate, but you can't win Premier League games unless you are disciplined and controlled."
They were qualities that Albion displayed, as they have all season while taking 14 points from away games – the fifth best record in the Premier League.
Albion started towards their fourth away win in the 20th minute as they sliced through Newcastle's defence after seizing on a wayward pass by Tioté. Nicky Shorey found Chris Brunt, whose excellent pass sent Odemwingie clear to finish inside the post.
Newcastle came up with an equaliser from a predictable source after 34 minutes. Ba, scorer of 11 goals in his previous 11 League games, was the only candidate to take a 20-yard free-kick, which he steered into the top corner. Albion were back in front, though, on 44 minutes when McAuley scored his first goal for the club after Scharner headed a free-kick back into the danger area.
There was still time for Newcastle to go close to another equaliser when Haris Vuckic, a 19-year-old starting his first League game, struck the bar from nearly 25 yards.
A frantic start to the second half climaxed in the 53rd minute when Newcastle were fortunate to stay in the game after a sublime first touch by Shane Long enabled him to go clear and round Tim Krul before wastefully hitting the bar.
That narrow escape, combined with Newcastle's failure to make inroads against an Albion team dropping deeper and deeper, was the cue for Hatem Ben Arfa's appearance in place of Leon Best – and he made an important contribution in the 81st minute when he set up Ba for his second goal.
Newcastle now looked the likelier winners, but Hodgson's team had the final say when Scharner capitalised on a pass from Odemwingie.
Hodgson said: "All credit to my players for coming back and getting a third goal. It was a great achievement. Many teams would have captitulated when it went to 2-2 and we could have gone home with nothing."
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, Perch, Coloccini, Santon (R Taylor, h-t); Obertan (Shola Ameobi, 72), Vuckic, Tioté, Gutierrez; Best (Ben Arfa, 61), Ba. Substitutes not used Elliot (gk), Williamson, Abeid, Sammy Ameobi.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Foster; Reid (Jones, 6), McAuley, Olsson, Shorey; Thomas (Dorrans, 68), Mulumbu (Thorne, 76), Scharner, Brunt; Odemwingie, Long. Substitutes not used Fulop (gk), Dawson, Cox, Fortune.
Referee A Taylor (Cheshire).
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