Demba Ba scores against Blackburn

By Dan Sheridan - Newcastle United Managing Editor

 

Over the next few weeks, we will be reviewing the 2011/12 campaign - a remarkable season which will live long in the memory of every Newcastle fan. The second instalment starts with United still unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League - and ends the same way despite tough fixtures against Tottenham and Stoke among others...

 

September

After a successful start to the new campaign that had seen United take seven points from a possible nine in the Barclays Premier League and progress to the third round of the Carling Cup, September posed a new set of challenges for Alan Pardew's men.

Their first game of the month following an international break was a tricky-looking trip to newly-promoted Queens Park Rangers, who had spent much of the summer restructuring their squad after a change at boardroom level.

The pre-match focus centred on Joey Barton, who had joined the West Londoners from the Magpies the previous month, but despite eye-catching displays from the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Adel Taarabt, Newcastle held firm.

A stubborn defensive display from an unchanged back four saw the visitors take a valuable point in an entertaining 0-0 draw - and Leon Best even went close to winning it with a fine first-half effort.

With their unbeaten start intact, the Toon Army descended on Birmingham next for another tough game away at Aston Villa. And despite the points being shared once more following a 1-1 scoreline, this was a tale of what might have been.

Former favourite Shay Given lined up in goal for the home side, and it was the Villains who took the lead in the 13th minute when Gabriel Agbonlahor slotted home after good work from Barry Bannan.

But from that point onwards, the black and whites began to take control, and after equalising thanks to a tap-in from Best, Given went on to frustrate his former side with a stunning one-handed save to deny man-of-the-match Yohan Cabaye.

Changes were made to the starting XI for the Carling Cup trip to Nottingham Forest three days later, but despite the adjustments, United once again showed their class to win an absolute thriller at the City Ground.

With the match level after 90 minutes thanks to home goals from Robbie Findlay and Matt Derbyshire and a brace from Great Dane Peter Lovenkrands, extra time was needed to settle the clash.

And when Marcus Tudgay made it 3-3 after Danny Simpson's fortuitous strike, it looked like a penalty shoot-out was on the cards - that was until the 120th minute, when a Fabricio Coloccini header settled a memorable tie.

After no goals in his first five games for the Club, Demba Ba chose the home game with Blackburn Rovers to announce his arrival - and announce it he did, with a devastating 27-minute hat-trick.

The Senegalese star's treble opened the floodgates on his season, and thanks to his expert finishing, the Magpies ran out 3-1 winners over Steve Kean's side, and sat in fourth spot going into October.


October

With eight games gone and United still unbeaten in all competitions, Pardew's side headed to Wolves on the first day of October, and returned to Tyneside with all three points.

Another Demba Ba strike and a mesmerising run and finish from Jonás Gutiérrez in the first-half sealed the win for the visitors, despite a late scare following Steven Fletcher's late goal and a disallowed Wanderers effort in stoppage time.

Next up was another test of Newcastle's top-six credentials against Tottenham in an enthralling televised game that eventually ended 2-2.

Rafael Van Der Vaart gave Spurs the lead shortly before the break from the penalty spot, but the home side roared back through that man Ba again, with his fifth goal in just three games.

And despite England striker Jermain Defoe giving Tottenham the edge with just over 20 minutes to go, local hero Shola Ameobi leapt off the bench to grab a vital point for his side with a lethal late finish.

Up until the visit of Wigan, midfielder Yohan Cabaye had been gaining admirers from far and wide following his summer switch from Lille, with the Frenchman having a huge influence in the middle of the park.

But against the Latics, his stock rose even further. Teed up by fellow countryman Sylvain Marveaux, and with plenty still to do, Cabaye curled home the winner from 18-yards out to secure United's place in the top four.

In a departure from Premier League action, the black and whites headed to Blackburn in the Carling Cup fourth round and despite being involved in another end-to-end encounter, it was Rovers who edged through.

The game looked as good as over in the final minute, with the home side leading 2-0 thanks to Ruben Rochina and Yakubu, but two stoppage-time screamers from Cabaye and Danny Guthrie took the tie to extra time.

Further goals from Morten Gamst Pedersen and Peter Lovenkrands saw the game locked at 3-3, but as at Nottingham Forest in the previous round, there was a late, late winner - this time from Gael Givet to send the Lancashire side through.

It was the Magpies' first defeat of the season, but one which was quickly forgotten on Halloween with a masterclass in finishing from Demba Ba at Stoke and his second hat-trick of the campaign.

Tony Pulis' men had no answer to the number 19, who opened the scoring with a header before adding another five minutes before the break. City pulled a goal back from the spot but Ba completed his treble with a penalty of his own to make it 3-1.

Season Ticket Teaser