Two of the Best eases pain produced by Barton's departure
Newcastle United 2 Fulham 1
Monday 29 August 2011
A pre-match airing of Morrissey's "Every Day Is Like Sunday" was the closest they came to marking the not inconsiderable void left by Joey Barton as Newcastle started life without The Smiths-loving midfielder. If subsequent sabbaths turn out like this one, then they are set to be happy in the haze of a drunken hour or two.
Perhaps the only downside for the hosts was the concession of a late consolation courtesy of a looping backward header from Clint Dempsey, Fulham's first in the Premier League this season and the only time so far Newcastle's defence has been found wanting in the league this term.
In fairness to the visitors, Tim Krul was called on to make three stunning second-half saves to keep his side, despite their turbulent build-up to the season, among the early-season pace-setters. "He's a young lad from my hometown," Fulham manager Martin Jol revealed. "He's a keeper I like a lot, but maybe not so much after that outstanding display."
One point from Fulham's first three games makes uncomfortable reading for Jol, who said: "If you create the number of chances we did then you should take something from the match."
It was his side's 11th game of a season already approaching its third month and he added: "It's been a tough week with three matches, but the players need to realise that the ball never gets tired."
Leon Best must never tire of facing teams from London. He made the most of a rare start to ensure that six of his eight appearances on the scoresheet for the club have come against opposition from the capital.
The second, shortly after the hour, was the pick, the Republic of Ireland international taking a sublime touch to kill a low cross from substitute Demba Ba, before turning to fire low past Mark Schwarzer. The Fulham goalkeeper was powerless on that occasion, but should have done better with Newcastle's first, three minutes after the restart. He could only push Yohan Cabaye's shot on to the bar, Best reacting first to bundle home.
"He still has to prove himself," Alan Pardew insisted, in an attempt to keep the forward's feet on the ground. The manager added: "For me he's never had a run where he's been able to say 'I'm the man'. He's got an opportunity now."
Newcastle's express start may make it more difficult for Pardew to persuade owner Mike Ashley to invest in the squad in before Wednesday's transfer deadline. Erik Pieters, the Dutch international Pardew thought would be coming to Tyneside before the weekend,instead featured for PSV Eindhoven yesterday.
"There's nothing that I want to disclose now," Pardew added. "We've lost Joey and we need to get some bodies in through the door."
Substitutes: Newcastle Ba 5 (Lovenkrands, 62,), Vuckic 6 (Best, 78), Smith (Vuckic, 85).
Fulham Johnson 6 (Kasami, 73)
Booked: Newcastle Simpson, Smith.
Man of the match Best.
Match rating 7/10.
Possession: Newcastle 50% Fulham 50%.
Attempts on target: Newcastle 9 Fulham 9.
Referee K Friend (Leicestershire).
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