Newcastle Club Focus – Cabaye cracker keeps top four hopes alive

If the sign of a good team is to win when not playing at their best then Newcastle showed further evidence that they are worthy of the current top four place. Despite producing arguably their worst performance of the season the Magpies still managed to grind out a 1-0 win thanks to a special goal from midfielder Yohan Cabaye. Complacency was always going to be an issue against a Wigan side struggling at the opposite end of the table and on a losing run. That appeared to be the case for much of the game with Alan Pardew having to use all of his substitutes to try to find a breakthrough in a close game.

It was with huge relief that Cabaye finally scored his first goal for the club in the 81st minute of the game. Up to then the Frenchman had worked diligently for little reward until his strike from the edge of the area set up a vital win. Cabaye showed his delight by celebrating with all of his teammates and the coaching staff to show how quickly he has settled into life in the north east.

After the game Pardew praised the 25-year-old but admitted he was a doubt before the game due to injury: “He’s a class player. He’s a class person, actually. He brings an elegance to the side. He’s just a level-headed, good footballer. He’s in an area where we’ve got competition. His quality shows every week.” Cabaye is already hugely popular among the fans, even earning a standing ovation in the first half when going to take a corner, and is further evidence of the ability of Newcastle’s successful scouting network to find good players at reasonable prices.

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments from Saturday’s game was the team’s lack of cohesion in the final third of the pitch. Strikers Leon Best and Demba Ba both failed to last the 90 minutes for the second game in a row and had few opportunities to add to their goalscoring accounts. Hatem Ben Arfa was quickly introduced to provide more of an attacking spark which worked to a certain extent. On the right of midfield Gabriel Obertan did not have the best of games and received some ironic cheers when he was finally substituted. The former Manchester United player has great pace although at times his final delivery and decision making lets him down. He could find his place most under threat from the likes of Ben Arfa and Sylvain Marveaux.

Newcastle quickly return to action in midweek with a Carling Cup tie away at Blackburn. So far in the competition Pardew had made wholesale changes to his starting line-up against lower league opponents. However with the Magpies not in league action until next Monday, and just one game away from the quarter finals, he may play a stronger 11. There could still be starts for the likes of Marveaux, Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands.

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