Club Focus – Newcastle – Strikers show their worth in Birmingham victory

Newcastle moved up to ninth in the table as a goal apiece from strikers Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best provided the platform for an important win away from home. The striker pairing has come in for some criticism of late for struggling to find the back of the net in place of the departed Andy Carroll. But they rewarded manager Alan Pardew’s faith in them as both parts of the forward duo netted at St. Andrew’s. It was a rare home defeat for Birmingham City who boast one of the strongest home records since their return to the Premier League. On a number of occasions this campaign the Magpies have had their results thwarted by one of their former players, but Obafemi Martins, a recognised name on St. James’ Park, had few chances to haunt his former employers.

The timing of Newcastle’s two goals was crucial as they scored within minutes of the opening of the two halves to stun the hosts. The second goal was particularly important as the Magpies have struggled to hold onto single goal leads in their past few games. The result means that Pardew’s side have gone eight points clear of the relegation places and may even have an outside chance of Europe. Seventh place may be enough to secure a place in European competition and at the moment they are only two points off local rivals Sunderland. With a 10 day break coming up followed by two home games Newcastle can at the very least put any relegation fears behind them.

Alan Pardew has confirmed that star left back Jose Enrique will not enter contract talks until the club’s place in the Premier League is secure. In an ideal world that will be before the end of the current season but it still remains mathematically possible to go down. It is likely that Enrique will want an improved contract to reflect his status as a key player and the recent interest shown from some top clubs. Pardew has also backed the Spaniard for a maiden international call-up for the current World Cup holders. A contract extension for Joey Barton is yet to be confirmed despite the player pledging his allegiance to Newcastle at the beginning of the month.

Newcastle’s newest signing has spoken of his delight at joining the Magpies on a short term deal. Shefki Kuqi was without a club after being released by Championship high-flyers Swansea in January. A move to St James’ Park represents a major step-up for the Finn who has spent most of his career in English football’s second tier. It is unlikely he will be retained after the end of this current season, so Kuqi plans the make the most of his spell on Tyneside. He said: “I’m probably one of the happiest footballers in the world, when I was released by Swansea I didn’t know what was going to happen.

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