It was the £35m question: would Newcastle United have won this match with Andy Carroll, or at the very least a suitable replacement for their departed No 9, in the team?
It was a query nobody dared put to Alan Pardew directly after his side failed to capitalise on their dominance of a Blackburn team in dire need of the Dubai sunshine that awaits them this week. Newcastle may be "all pulling for each other" – as Pardew noted and their performance underlined – but that freak second-half fightback against Arsenal aside, they have struggled to find the net since putting five past West Ham in their last victory on 5 January.
With Shola Ameobi injured, Pardew used four different strikers during this stalemate – Leon Best, Peter Lovenkrands and substitutes Nile Ranger and Shefki Kuqi – yet only Lovenkrands, with a first-half lob against the bar, came close to a goal.
Kuqi, a stop-gap signing last week, made his debut in the 89th minute and Pardew believes his presence will help. "We've got young strikers, Besty and Nile Ranger, and sometimes they make bad decisions because of their youthfulness. [Kuqi] is not going to do that, he is going to be in the right place at the right time."
One player in the right place all of the time was Newcastle left-back Jose Enrique, who dominated his side of the pitch with the support of Jonas Gutierrez, underlining his ability with two superb first-half balls that Lovenkrands spurned. "He is an important player for this team because a lot of it functions from him, a lot of our good stuff. Technically he was the best player on the pitch by some distance," added Pardew, who played down concerns that the Spaniard might follow Carroll out of St James' Park.
Subs: Blackburn Roberts 5 (Santa Cruz, h-t), Pedersen 6 (Hoilett, h-t), Emerton 5 (Dunn, 64) Unused Bunn (gk), Hanley, Grella, Benjani. Newcastle Perch 5 (Simpson, 75), Ranger 5 (Lovenkrands, 76), Kuqi 5 (Best, 89) Unused Krul (gk), Campbell, Guthrie, Ferguson.
Booked: Blackburn Salgado Newcastle Tiote, Gutierrez, Barton.
Man of the match Enrique Match rating 5/10.
Possession Blackburn 43% Newcastle 57%.
Attempts on target Blackburn 0 Newcastle 6.
Referee S Attwell (Warwickshire) Att 26,781.