Alex McLeish may be the one having trouble keeping a full complement on the pitch at present, but his Birmingham City players could still learn a thing or two about ill discipline from Cheick Tioté.
It's been hard to avoid the fact that Robbie Savage, who served the Blues with distinction, finally hung up his boots at the weekend, but surely even he couldn't have engineered a mention in the aftermath of a contest that saw the action condensed into a 10-minute spell before the break to bring Newcastle the victory that ensured top-flight survival.
Perhaps the most notable moment – outside the hectic pre-interval spell that saw all three goals and a red card for Birmingham's Liam Ridgewell – came at the death with an innocuous foul by Tioté on Matt Derbyshire. It was the Ivorian's 14th booking of an otherwise outstanding first season in the Premier League, matching Savage's record.
With a suspension looming should a 15th caution arrive, the midfielder's season may be prematurely over. The waters are further muddied by Newcastle's trip to Chelsea on Sunday. "Another booking would mean he misses three games at the start of next season but I have to look at the race at the top and I have to do what's right for football and play my best team," manager Alan Pardew admitted. "It's ironic that he's matched the record with Robbie retiring on the same day."
At least Tioté stayed on the field. Ridgewell earned Birmingham's second consecutive red card for handling Fabricio Coloccini's header, Shola Ameobi's penalty compounding the misdemeanour.
Steven Taylor extended the lead with a thunderous header, before the ball found the net for a third time in nine minutes, propelled there by Lee Bowyer, against his former club, to reduce the deficit.
Scorers: Newcastle Ameobi pen 36, S Taylor 43 Birmingham Bowyer 45.
Substitutes: Newcastle Ranger (Lovenkrands, 71). Birmingham Derbyshire (Fahey, 77)
Booked: Newcastle Tiote. Birmingham Bowyer, Larsson, Jerome, Jiranek.
Man of the match Foster. Match rating 6/10.
Possession: Newcastle 56% Birmingham 44%.
Attempts on target: Newcastle 14 B'ham 2.
Referee C Foy (Lancashire).
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