Obertan can lift the cloud over Tyneside

Newcastle 0 Fiorentina 0: Never mind the Barton saga, even the rain was non-stop as prestige friendly has an early finish
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The Independent Football

The focus finally switched back to football at Newcastle after a week when Tweetgate dominated talk on Tyneside.

The main characters in the latest St James' Park soap opera were absent for their final warm-up game before facing Arsenal on Saturday. Joey Barton, on his way out over his comments on Twitter, was nowhere to be seen, while boardroom chiefs Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias were also absent.

Perhaps Ashley and Llambias feared a backlash from fans, but overwhelming internet support for Barton during the week was not reflected here apart from occasional chants backing the player. Indeed a crowd of less than 13,000 only became animated when the match was abandoned 19 minutes into the second half because the pitch was waterlogged. Until then, Barton was forgotten as the crowd appeared more interested in seeing how Newcastle performed against a Fiorentina side that finished ninth in Serie A last season, than blasting the board.

Alan Pardew, Newcastle's manager, had clearly decided that, with their opening League game only a week away, the time for experiment is over. The vast majority of the team that started yesterday can expect to play against the Gunners, with Manchester United winger Gabriel Obertan likely to join them if he passes a medical tomorrow. "The deal's almost there," Pardew said. "He has to come through a medical, but I'm looking forward to him joining the club."

Meanwhile, Pardew plans talks with Barton this week. The manager said: "I want my best players playing for the club, but Joey has to buy into what we are doing. We will have a couple of chats and go from there."

The players who have joined Newcastle made their first appearance at St James' Park, with Yohan Cabaye impressing Pardew in midfield. "He was the outstanding player on the pitch," Pardew said. "His passing and control of the game showed he will give us a different dimension."

Demba Ba and Sylvain Marveaux, the other new faces, went on at the start of the second half and showed in their cameo performances that they may force their way into the side in place of Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands, who made little impact.

Best wasted United's only chance of a low-key first half when he dragged his shot wide after being put clear by Jonas Gutierrez, while only two fine saves by keeper Tim Krul prevented Fiorentina going ahead. Krul was replaced at the interval by Fraser Forster, who also impressed, but with last season's first-choice Steve Harper again missing through injury, Krul can expect to be given the nod in their Premier League opener. Others who boosted their chances of being involved were Steven Taylor and Dan Gosling, while Jose Enrique showed the pace and quality that will be missed if he gets the move he craves.

Pardew said that referee Mark Halsey was right to abandon the match. He said: "There is nothing you can do about the weather. The pitch was starting to look dangerous at half-time and I asked him to end it quickly.The rain just didn't stop."

Newcastle: Krul (Forster, h-t); Simpson, Jose Enrique, Coloccini, S Taylor, Gosling (Marveaux, h-t), Cabaye, Vuckic, Gutierrez (Ba, h-t), Lovenkrands, Best (Ameobi, h-t).

Fiorentina: Boruc; De Silvestri, Pasqual, Behrami, Gamberini, Natali, Romulo, Jovetic, Montolivo, Lazzari, Gilardino.