Lovenkrands and Best on target to stop Newcastle fans pining for Carroll

Birmingham City 0 Newcastle United 2
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The Independent Online

Newcastle's supposed dearth of firepower was put into perspective here last night when both strikers, Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best, scored to earn Alan Pardew's team their first win since Andy Carroll's defection last month. They are now ninth in the Premier League, while Birmingham, who would have overtaken them if they had won, remain three points above the bottom three.

Neither wears the coveted No 9 shirt vacated by Carroll's £35m transfer to Liverpool, but in each instance, early in either half, the finishing was of a high calibre. Lovenkrands' shot took his tally to four this season, and Best's header was his fifth in seven matches.

Birmingham, who have not beaten Newcastle at home since 1977, rarely looked capable of denying Pardew only his fourth win in 11 matches since defeat at nearby West Bromwich Albion cost Chris Hughton the manager's job. It was, Pardew said, "the complete away performance".

He was delighted not only with the goals but the work-rate of his front two. "For them both to score from open play was the biggest plus," Pardew said. "One [Lovenkrands] got a thigh strain because of the effort he put in and the other had to come off because he couldn't move anymore. They're not Carroll or [Shola] Ameobi; they're different types.

"This victory makes the draws we had against Arsenal and Blackburn look like fabulous results, because it's all about momentum. I thought we passed it well on a tricky surface."

Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager, felt the Carling Cup finalists looked "flat" – the result, he speculated, of their exertions in beating Stoke in stoppage time on Saturday. "To lose a goal so early goes against what I thought at the weekend when the concentration was phenomenal. One or two are looking a bit tired, but we could certainly have avoided those goals."

The Blaydon faces massed behind Steve Harper's goal were wreathed in smiles as Newcastle scored after just 95 seconds. Jonas Gutierrez's near-post cross saw Lovenkrands steal in ahead of Roger Johnson to steer a first-time shot past Ben Foster.

Newcastle used the width of the pitch better than Birmingham. When they doubled their lead five minutes after the break, the threat again stemmed from the left-wing delivery of Gutierrez. The Argentine twisted and turned past Sebastian Larsson before crossing to the far post where Best got the better of Johnson to head in a classic centre-forward's goal.

The original fixture had been postponed because of snow, and the elements again played a part. Heavy rain ensured a surfeit of sliding challenges. Newcastle showed the greater precision, with Joey Barton intermittently revealing his quality, although it was not all doom and gloom for Birmingham.

Midway through the opening half, Obafemi Martins' crisp pass found Barry Ferguson, whose instantaneous through-ball picked out Nikola Zigic. The towering Serb made space for an angled shot under pressure from a defender, only for the diving Harper to parry the ball to safety. If the visitors did not miss Carroll, nor was Martins' second cameo in a Birmingham shirt calculated to cause pangs of regret on Tyneside, where he spent three years before leaving after Newcastle's relegation in 2009.

Zigic's height has been important to Birmingham during their recent run of wins. Yet when he finally received a pinpoint cross, by Liam Ridgwell with 17 minutes remaining, he headed it over the bar, leaving Newcastle to ease home without further alarms.



Birmingham City (4-4-2): Foster; Carr, Jiranek (Murphy, 73), Johnson, Ridgewell; Larsson (Phillips, 75), B Ferguson, Gardner, Bentley; Martins (Jerome, 58), Zigic. Substitutes not used Doyle (gk), Bowyer, Fahey, Beausejour.

Booked Murphy

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Enrique; Barton, Nolan, Tioté, Gutierrez (Campbell, 87); Best (Guthrie, 75), Lovenkrands (Ranger, 64). Substitutes not used Krul (gk), Perch, S Ferguson, Kuqi.

Man of the match Gutierrez.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee L Mason (Lancashire).

Attendance 28,270.

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