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Birmingham City 0 Newcastle United 2

16 Feb 2011 08:00:00

Birmingham City 0 Newcastle United 2

Birmingham City 0 Newcastle United 2 IT could have been about the former Newcastle United striker or either of the two wing-men they failed to persuade to head to Tyneside last month. Instead it was the story at St Andrews of the two forwards taking their latest chance to shine after manager Alan Pardew's decision to keep faith with them. While Obafemi Martins, sold by the Magpies before the start of last season, struggled to make an impact and January targets David Bentley and Sebastien Larsson failed to inspire on the Birmingham flanks, Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best took centre stage. Neither of them enjoyed exceptional nights, but they were on hand to find the net to give Newcastle a victory that lifts them eight points clear of the relegation zone. Lovenkrands secured a perfect start inside two minutes for Newcastle, while Best took a couple of minutes longer to add to the lead after the restart. Two goals early in each half that proved to be decisive. Newcastle might not have won as many matches as they would have liked since the turn of the year, but this was a triumph that has further improved a run now reading one defeat in eight league games. After failing to win any of their matches since the hammering of West Ham on January 5, Newcastle were aware of the importance of heading into a ten-day break on the back of a good performance. It would have been easy for Pardew to have changed things in attack following Saturday's goalless draw with Blackburn, in which Newcastle were toothless in front of goal. In retaining Lovenkrands and Best up front, however, he provided the pairing with a further opportunity to prove they deserve to be ahead of Nile Ranger and Shefki Kuqi in the pecking order. Lovenkrands, particularly, started the night in determined mood. After Jose Enrique had darted down the line to centre, Birmingham looked to have cleared their lines. But Jonas Gutierrez's quick-thinking ensured the loose ball was sent straight back in towards the near post, with Lovenkrands' movement working him free of his marker before turning a low drive inside Ben Foster's right-hand post. The Danish striker had not scored since contributing to the win over West Ham, but his fourth of the season was dispatched in a manner more accustomed to a 20-goal a season man. Once Kevin Nolan had broken in behind the Birmingham defence moments later and shot low in to Foster's hands, Newcastle found themselves doing more of the defending. The half's best three other chances fell to the Blues. The first was wasted. Roger Johnson arrived at the back post to nod the wrong side of the post having been given too much freedom by Danny Simpson. Then goalkeeper Steve Harper went low to get a strong hand to Nikola Zigic's instinctive strike after Enrique had stupidly conceded possession to Martins on the right wing. And when Larsson, a Newcastle target in January, skipped around Cheik Tiote in the area and rolled to the edge of the area, Craig Gardner should have done better than find the fans behind the goal. Newcastle were playing competently enough in possession, but when they got anywhere near the Birmingham box they fluffed their lines. That was highlighted moments before the interval, when Best leaped high to waste Enrique's find delivery, with Lovenkrands lurking unmarked at the back post. But as soon as the second half started, Newcastle looked like a team intent on adding to their slender advantage. It took them less than four minutes to do so. Again Gutierrez was the supply. This time, he teased and turned his markers before sending over a back post cross that invited Best to jump above Johnson and nod in. A fifth goal in eight starts for the man responsible for filling the void left by the injured Shola Ameobi and the sold Andy Carroll; not a bad return for a forward who has not looked entirely comfortable leading the line. There could have been further movement in the scoreline. Had Johnson's acrobatics or Zigic's shooting been more on target then Birmingham, who also threw on Sunderland hero Kevin Phillips in the closing stages, could have made things interesting in the final stages. When they did hit the target through Johnson's header, Harper was equal to it. Newcastle also had their moments, most notably the thunderous drive from Tiote that Foster did well to stop from flying in to his top left corner. A much-needed win, however, had already been assured, with Lovenkrands and Best doing their best to remind their doubters they do have goals on their CVs. MATCHFACTS Goals: Lovenkrands (2, 0-1); Best (50, 0- 2) Bookings: Nolan (36, foul); Barton (62, foul); Murphy (86, foul); Ranger (90, unsporting behaviour) Referee: Lee Mason (Stockport) 5 Attendance: 28,270 BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Foster 5; Carr 6, Jiranek 5 (Murphy 73), Johnson 5, Ridgewell 6; Larsson 6 (Phillips 76), Gardner 5, FERGUSON 7, Bentley 6; Martins 4 (Jerome 58, 5), Zigic 4. Subs: Doyle (gk), Bowyer, Fahey, Beausejour. NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Harper 7; Simpson 7, Williamson 8, Coloccini 8, Enrique 6; Barton 6, Nolan 6, Tiote 7, GUTIERREZ 8 (Campbell 87); Lovenkrands 7 (Ranger 64, 5), Best 7 (Guthrie 75). Subs: Krul (gk), Perch, Ferguson, Kuqi. MAN OF THE MATCH JONAS Gutierrez his two deliveries, particularly the second, for the Magpies' goals were top quality


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