Newcastle United 2 Birmingham City 1
Newcastle United 2 Birmingham City 1 WITH Newcastle United assured of Premier League football for a further year, Alan Pardew has gone public on a desire to make the three or four signings that will lift the club's fans off their seat. With Pardew's transfer intentions clear, after sealing a return to winning ways against Birmingham City that brought an end to a fourmatch run without a win, the focus will now turn to owner Mike Ashley and his willingness to deliver. Even if Newcastle lose their final two matches, their first season back in the Premier League has been a success. Even though the man who led the revival, Chris Hughton, lost his job and the decision to cash in on Andy Carroll for £35m was made, Newcastle can reflect positively on their first year back among the elite. The 11th league win the sixth at home of a productive baptism back in the big league arrived comfortably against Birmingham, who looked the relegation-troubled side they are. Newcastle, even before Liam Ridgewell was red-carded for deliberate handball that paved the way for Shola Ameobi's opener from the penalty spot nine minutes before half-time, had far more quality. From the moment Joey Barton found his man with three scintillating long passes, which would have led to goals had Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands been on the same wavelength, Pardew must have sensed it was going to be Newcastle's day. Barton's deliveries from corners led to both Newcastle's goals before half-time and the brand of football played painted an optimistic picture for the future. There are areas to improve and Pardew knows that. There is a distinct lack of quality in their striker ranks, while he knows alternative options and greater depth is required in defence and in terms of creativity. But Newcastle are on the up provided Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias want to take them there this summer by backing Pardew financially on the transfer front. In the summer the manager will bring in his own men and we want players to come in and strengthen the squad, said right-back Danny Simpson. We want to push on even more and kick up the table. As a player you want other players to come in, because competition is healthy. The basis is there for next season. We've got a great bunch of lads who want to work hard and want to win. That's been the big thing in our season. But the manager will want to bring in players who will work hard and have a little bit of extra quality. Even at the back, he'll want to bring in players to keep the rest of us on our toes. Llambias had strangely used the match-day programme to criticise the section of Newcastle fans who dished out the taunts to Carroll at Anfield six days earlier, suggesting the abuse he received was difficult to stomach after everything Andy brought to the club. But there were no jeers, just cheers, at St James' Park as Barton's brilliant start to the afternoon soon rubbed off on those around him in black and white shirts. It was from two of Barton's eight dangerous corners that Newcastle gained a healthy first-half advantage. The first saw Ameobi's diving header thwarted by Stephen Carr, Fabricio Coloccini crashed the rebound against the woodwork before his second attempt was a header that looped towards goal. With Kevin Nolan in attendance, Birmingham's Ridgewell used his arm twice to protect the goal and Ameobi converted the spot-kick after the defender had been red-carded. Birmingham did not know how to deal with Jonas Gutierrez and Barton and when goalkeeper Ben Foster tipped a Nolan half-volley away, Barton had another chance to turn creator. He floated an enticing delivery towards the penalty spot and Steven Taylor, who Alex McLeish felt should not have been on the pitch after leading with his elbow on Cameron Jerome, powered his header low and beyond Seb Larsson on the line. A rare lapse in concentration moments later from Coloccini allowed Birmingham to close the gap to one again. Bowyer pounced on the loose ball after Jerome had been thwarted. Newcastle, however, never looked in any real danger after that. It was a relief to win, said Simpson, knowing how there was enormous disappointment in the manner they had lost 3-0 at Liverpool. We've had a few draws and we needed to pick ourselves back up, because if we'd lost and other teams had won, it would have still looked a bit risky going into the last two games, with one of them Chelsea on Sunday. Had Foster not denied Nolan or Johnson not headed an Ameobi chip off the line in the closing stages, Newcastle's victory would have been more comfortable. One certainty is that Pardew will not be settling for what he has got at St James' Park and the summer should prove that.
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