Kevin Nolan had warned West Ham to expect a backlash from Newcastle, but the one that came was aimed at the man who had brought the West Ham midfielder to St James’ Park four years ago – Joe Kinnear the main object of supporters’ understandable ire.
Shortly before half-time, a chorus of “Where’s the signings, Joe Kinnear?” rang out, accompanied by the unfurling of a banner, swiftly smothered by stewards, one which it is safe to say did not carry a ringing endorsement of the club’s director of football. Kinnear bore the brunt of the frustration emanating from the stands as a result of the lack of in-comings this summer, a so-far flawed policy that has clearly left the side short on the pitch.
The raucous enquiry from the stands is a valid one, because with barely a week of the window remaining, Newcastle’s only new face, Loic Remy, the forward signed on a season’s loan from QPR, is unlikely to figure until after next month’s international break, because of injury. Alan Pardew’s is a squad desperately in need of strengthening.
Yoan Gouffran should have papered over the cracks when, deep into stoppage time, he contrived to fire the rebound into orbit after a cross from his fellow substitute Sammy Ameobi bounced back off the post to the unmarked forward two yards out.
Pardew wasn’t too critical of the Frenchman, joking that he would be “sweating on the Christmas gaffes misses of the season”, but it was a miss that summed up a forgettable afternoon for the hosts, who have gone more than six hours without a goal in front of their own supporters, a run stretching back to last season.
Predictably, there was no Yohan Cabaye, the unsettled French midfielder, and the absence of the suspended Steven Taylor also meant the hosts lacked an English-born player in their starting line-up.
After shipping ten goals in their previous three home games, at least on this occasion they posted a welcome clean sheet to help erase the memory of their opening 4-0 humbling by Manchester City, as they avoided what would have been a fourth consecutive Premier League defeat. They are reasons for comfort that Pardew is happy to talk up.
“I have to look at us and say we looked more disciplined defensively, more cohesive and the back four and keeper were excellent,” he said. “West Ham frustrated us, but we stood up well to that.”
There was no sign of Kinnear or the club’s owner Mike Ashley in the St James’ Park directors’ box as Nolan, the former Newcastle captain brought in by the Irishman during his ill-fated spell in charge in 2009, spurned one of several chances for West Ham to continue their 100 per cent start to the season. As it was, Sam Allardyce, sacked by the Tyneside club five-and-a-half years ago, had to settle for a share of the spoils in recording a fifth game unbeaten against his former employers.
The West Ham manager said: “I’m frustrated not to win it on the chances we created, all our good chances came via free headers. If you’re going to play away from home and don’t take one of three great chances like that then you’re not going to win.”
Nolan, who scored the winner here last season, headed wide from a cross from debutant Stewart Downing after the break, a miss not as woeful as that perpetrated before the interval by Modibo Maiga, whose misdirected header from Guy Demel’s perfect centre should have broken the deadlock.
Maiga was also strangely reticent to force the issue when Downing met a centre from Matt Jarvis to provide an inviting knock-back for the West Ham forward, but the visitors carved out the clearer chances. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s header, glanced wide at the near post from a Sylvain Marveaux corner, was as close as the hosts got.
A similar pattern followed after the break, Nolan’s miss accompanied by Joe Cole’s late effort from distance, before Maiga’s close range tap-in was rightly ruled out for offside. Gouffran should have provided the unexpected finale, but a rushed finish ensured boos predictably followed at the final-whistle,
Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon; Ben Arfa, Anita, Sissoko, Marveaux (Sammy Ameobi, 66); Cissé (Gouffran, 72), Shola Ameobi.
West Ham (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Demel, Collins, Reid, O’Brien; Downing (Cole, 64), Diamé (Morrison, 75), Noble, Nolan, Jarvis; Maiga.
Referee: Phil Dowd.
Man of the match: Reid (West Ham)
Match rating: 5/10