Club Focus – Newcastle – Magpies hold league leaders to draw

Newcastle produced a determined display to hold Manchester United to a goalless draw at St James’ Park. Alan Pardew’s side were good value for their point as they showed their mettle against a side odds-on to secure another Premier League title. The result takes Newcastle to the significant 40-point mark, which would have been the aim to reach at the beginning of the season. The game hinged on two controversial penalty decisions for either side which could possibly have gone either way. The Magpies would have been relieved that referee Lee Probert turned down a strong appeal from the visitors in injury time.

Although the hosts struggled to create few clear-cut chances they were aided by a strong display from the defence. Strikers Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands did not cause the Red Devils’ defence too many problems and highlighted the need to strengthen in that area come the summer. But at the other end of the pitch Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini formed a strong partnership to quieten the table toppers in-form strikers. Coloccini in particular stuck out with a composed display making a number of timely interceptions. The Argentine’s performance again underlined the progress he has made since moving to England and how he has adapted to the challenge.

Inexperienced goalkeeper Tim Krul produced a composed display between the posts in an important game for the future of his career. The Dutchman made an excellent save early on which gave him the confidence to ensure the injured Steve Harper was not missed. Manager Alan Pardew faces a tough choice in the summer when Celtic’s current number one Fraser Forster returns from his loan spell. The manager admitted in a recent interview that either Krul or Forster will go out on loan with the other competing with Steve Harper for the number one jersey. Both young goalkeepers appear to have a bright future in the game but Krul’s performance last night in a big game may have convinced his manager he is worth holding on to.

In other news Pardew has expressed his disappointment that midfielder Joey Barton failed to make the PFA Premier League team of the season. No Magpies players made the final XI despite a number of players enjoying impressive seasons. Alongside Barton Jose Enrique, Cheik Tiote and Kevin Nolan have all stood out over the course of the 2010-11 campaign. Pardew believes that his controversial stand-in-captain was ignored due to his previous misdemeanours. He said: “He’s been as important to us as Charlie Adam has been to Blackpool and Scott Parker has been to West Ham. I think probably if he’d burst onto the scene as a 20-year-old and played the football he has this season, he’d be in. But he has a past, and I think that plagues him somewhat.” Former Magpie Andy Carroll was another player ignored in the final reckoning despite breaking the British transfer record in January and earning a maiden England call-up.

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