Steve Harper

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Steve Harper admitted Newcastle's "battling spirit" earned them a point at Reading despite a below-par display at the Madejski Stadium.

For the second Barclays Premier League away game in succession, the Magpies trailed twice but fought back on both occasions.

And just like at Everton 12 days earlier, it was Demba Ba who got the goals to earn a 2 -2 draw.

After a goalless first half in which both teams struggled to create chances, the hosts took the lead through Jimmy Kebe then, after Ba's first equaliser, regained the initiative through Noel Hunt.

But Ba levelled again with seven minutes to go and Harper conceded that a draw was a good result in the end.

"Yes, given our performance," he told nufc.co.uk. "Only our battling spirit got us a point today.

"Our performance wasn't good enough and the gaffer's certainly let the lads know in no uncertain terms that it wasn't acceptable.

"What we have got here is spirit but when you come away from home you have to earn the right to play and we didn't do that today.

"The first half was okay. We knew if we were better second half than we were first, we could come away with a win but it wasn't to be.

"We knew they put the ball in the box a lot and to expect a lot of crosses and one or two goals have came from that so it was disappointing in that respect. But if you don't win, don't lose and that could end up being a big point for us."

It took a fantastic reaction save in the 88th minute from Harper - who had already made a fine stop to keep out Pavel Pogrebnyak in the first half - to prevent substitute Jason Roberts giving Reading their first league win of the season.

And the keeper said: "It was important at the time, late on.

"That was probably the most I've ever had to do in the air in a game as well - the most crosses I think I've ever had in 20 years!

"But the pleasing part is obviously not the performance of the team today but just the battling spirit again which will hopefully see us go a long way this season even if performances do need to pick up."

While Harper kept the Royals out at one end, Ba's double took him to six goals in five starts this term.

And Harper had one word to describe the in-form frontman: "Phenomenal."

He added: "The technique for the first goal was absolutely sensational; to hit it first time, a ball like that, on target and to beat the goalkeeper is fantastic.

"And it was a great header on the second one. That's what happens - he's up there to score goals and he's doing that, and showing what a top striker he is."

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