Newcastle Club Focus – Magpies bring winless run to an end

Newcastle provided their fans with some much needed festive cheer with an away win against relegation-threatened Bolton. The result brings an end to the club’s run of six games without a win which had threatened to derail their exceptional start to the season. It was important that the Magpies got a win on the board as soon as possible with back-to-back games against Liverpool and Manchester United over the New Year period. The result sees Newcastle remain in seventh spot in the Premier League, only four points from the top four.

The game itself will not live long in the memory, in stark contrast to the Magpies’ previous game against West Brom. Both sides struggled to create opportunities in a dull first-half low on quality and entertainment. Before the game Alan Pardew opted against wholesale changes to his out-of-form team. Only two alterations were made from the previous starting XI with Mike Williamson and Yohan Cabaye returning from injury and suspension respectively. Williamson helped to bolster a defence that has been conceding goals at an alarming rate in recent games with the dropped James Perch made a scapegoat by many fans for the defence’s recent struggles. With Ryan Taylor also returned to the team there was a more familiar feel to the back four with Tim Krul having few saves to make.

Newcastle’s goals came in a two minute period mid-way through the second-half. The arrival of substitute Hatem Ben Arfa on the pitch made an immediate impact with the Frenchman scoring the opening goal. It was only Ben Arfa’s second goal for the club and the first since breaking his leg well over a year ago. It has been a tough time for the 24-year-old who, since returning from his broken leg has struggled for form and match fitness. At the moment it appears Pardew sees him only as an impact player who can change the game from the bench. However when Demba Ba goes to play in the Africa Cup of Nations there may be more of a need for Ben Arfa in the starting line-up.

After the game Alan Pardew was delighted with side’s performance to get back to winning ways. After the West Brom defeat he felt his side lacked discipline in some of their play but it was more organised performance on Boxing Day. He said: “We had a more disciplined display today. We had [Mike] Williamson back as a round peg in a round hole because [James] Perch is not a centre back, even though he has done terrific for us, and that made a difference. We protected him a little with our full backs staying at home and we were always going to conjure up a chance.

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