By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At Carrow Road
Norwich City 0
Newcastle United 0
Newcastle United picked up an important Premier League point with a goalless draw away at Norwich City on Saturday.
It put an end to a run of four successive defeats in all competitions and handed the Magpies only their second clean sheet in nine attempts.
In a cagey affair, United - with new signing Mathieu Debuchy impressing on his debut at right-back - had a couple of good chances, in particular when winger Gabriel Obertan stung the palms of home keeper Mark Bunn from the edge of the area.
The Canaries had openings of their own too, but found Tim Krul in inspired form as he denied Robert Snodgrass from close range. And even when they did beat the Dutch international, Russell Martin's strike hit the outside of the post.
It was by no means a game that will live long in the memory, but manager Alan Pardew will be delighted with a point at Carrow Road, where only Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have won this season, and it was a much more resolute display from Newcastle than in recent weeks.
A lively opening from both teams, saw Jonas Gutierrez almost create the first opportunity of the afternoon on 12 minutes.
The returning Argentine picked up the ball near the halfway line and proceeded to drive forward down the left, weaving through three challenges before delivering a final ball which was agonisingly out of the reach of Papiss Cisse.
Gutierrez then took matters into his own hands when the ball reached him 20 yards out following a neat, passing move, but couldn't curl his shot on target.
United were growing in confidence and Obertan went even closer in the 17th minute, sending a half-volleyed snapshot from the edge of the area flying towards the top corner until the intervention of Canaries stopper Mark Bunn, who parried to safety.
For all their pressure, however, only an outstanding last-ditch challenge from James Perch prevented Norwich from breaking the deadlock midway through the half.
Cisse's heavy touch in the middle of the park set the hosts on a three-against-two break but as the ball was knocked inside to Hoolahan eight yards out, Perch stormed back into the box to take it off his toes as the midfielder got set to pull the trigger.
Tim Krul was soon called into action for the first time, smothering at the feet of Simeon Jackson before holding a tame Robert Snodgrass header which the winger failed to get any power on.
Yohan Cabaye was introduced from the substitutes' bench on 57 minutes - his first outing since undergoing groin surgery in November.
The French international replaced fellow countryman Gabriel Obertan, meaning a slight reshuffle to the Magpies' midfield pack, with Cabaye playing in behind Cisse and Sylvain Marveaux moved out to the right flank.
But it was Norwich who conjured up the first real opening of the second half, just past the hour mark.
A long ball over the top almost caught the visitors out, but Snodgrass was unable to get a shot away before Williamson blocked his effort, with Anthony Pilkington firing the loose ball well over the top.
Newcastle went straight down the other end and Marveaux put a rising shot from distance narrowly off target as the contest began to show signs of finally opening up.
Norwich skipper Russell Martin came within a lick of paint of edging the hosts in front. As United failed to clear their lines, the ball bounced up kindly for the right-back 25 yards out in a central position and he struck a dipping half-volley which came off the foot of the post and behind to safety.
They immediately brought on big striker Grant Holt in a bid to change their fortunes in the final third, with the talisman taking on the captain's armband, and Holt was soon causing problems in the Magpies' penalty area.
In the 76th minute, a brilliant save from Krul kept Newcastle level pegging. Holt released Snodgrass down the right with a neat flick, and the former Leeds man strode past a couple of tackles before slipping the ball into the path of Pilkington on the left of the area.
The former Huddersfield winger cut inside Mathieu Debuchy but saw his shot from 10 yards blocked by Krul, who had rushed off his line to avert any danger.
United weren't content to sit on a point and forced a couple of corners, the second of which fell to captain Fabricio Coloccini at the far post and he lashed an inventive half-volley just over the bar.
But Norwich nearly won it with the final kick of the match. Substitute Elliott Bennett delivered a cross to the far post where Holt headed back across goal, but th stretching Pilkington could only nod off-target from a couple of yards out.
Norwich City (4-5-1): Mark Bunn; Russell Martin (c), Sebastien Bassong, Michael Turner, Javier Garrido; Robert Snodgrass (Elliott Bennett 77), Bradley Johnson, Alexander Tettey, Wes Hoolahan, Anthony Pilkington; Simeon Jackson (Grant Holt 68)
Subs not used: Declan Rudd, Leon Barnett, Ryan Bennett, David Fox, Harry Kane
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Tim Krul; Mathieu Debuchy, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon; James Perch, Vurnon Anita (Gael Bigirimana 84); Gabriel Obertan (Yohan Cabaye 57), Sylvain Marveaux, Jonas Gutierrez; Papiss Cisse
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Manchester)
Bookings: Norwich - none; Newcastle - Debuchy (83)