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Newcastle United 2 Birmingham 1

By Anthony Marshall, at St. James' Park...

 

Newcastle United 2 (Ameobi 36pen, Taylor 43)

Birmingham City 1 (Bowyer 45)

 

First half goals from Shola Ameobi and Steven Taylor earned Newcastle all three points with a 2-1 win over Birmingham City at St. James' Park.

It also completed the double over the Blues this season, although Alex McLeish's side had to play 55 minutes of this clash with ten men following the dismissal of Liam Ridgewell.

The defender was given his marching orders by referee Chris Foy for handling on the goaline during an almighty scramble, and Ameobi made no mistake from the resulting spot kick. Taylor nodded home number two shortly before the break as the hosts took control, but a moment of sloppy defending allowed Lee Bowyer to halve the deficit right on half-time.

Newcastle pressed for number three throughout the second half and Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez and Nile Ranger all saw efforts come and go as they weremore comfortable than the scoreline suggests.

Both sides struggled to get into any sort of rhythm in the early stagers in difficult conditions, but Birmingham thought they should have had a penalty in the 11th minute when Kevin Nolan and Shola Ameobi tried to clear a Stephen Carr free-kick and the ball bounced up onto the latter. However, referee Foy waved away the visitors' appeals, much to their frustration.

Lone Blues front man Cameron Jerome then did well to cut in from the right flank, only to blaze high and wide from around 20 yards, but it wasn't too long before Newcastle were on the front foot.

Joey Barton picked up the ball in space and decided to try his luck from all 30 yards, with his low strike taking an awkward bounce of the wet turf and forcing former Watford keeper Ben Foster to divert it behind for a corner.

On 23 minutes Ameobi was unable to get enough power on a Jonas Gutierrez cross to trouble Foster, while straight down the other end Birmingham wide man Sebastian Larsson produced a weak finish which was well off target having been afforded the time and space to drive into the Magpies' half.

If the opening exchanges were largely uneventful then the game finally sparked into life in the 35th minute as Newcastle broke the deadlock and Birmingham were reduced to ten men.

A Barton corner from the right was met by Ameobi, whose thumping header was blocked by the visiting defence, and Fabricio Coloccini saw his half-volley from the resulting loose ball touched on to the woodwork by Foster. But it rebounded into the path of the Argentine who headed back across goal, only for the ball to strike Liam Ridgwell's arm right under the crossbar.

Mr Foy had no hesitation in pointing at the spot, handing a straight red card to Ridgewell, and Ameobi made no mistake from the spot in tucking his penalty low past the despairing dive of Foster.

Although Birmingham's keeper was picking the ball out of the back of his net, he kept his side in the contest with a couple of excellent saves as the hosts went in search of number two.

First, he got down well to parry a Peter Lovenkrands effort after Kevin Nolan had back-heeled into the forward's path, before producing a stunning stop from Nolan's thumping left-footed half-volley. Foster was helpless though to stop United finally doubling their advantage two minutes before the break and it came again from a corner.

Steven Taylor, recalled to the starting line-up in place of the injured MIke Williamson, connected with another Barton flag-kick and powered it home to score his first goal of the season on the 150th league appearance of his career.

However, they let ten-man Birmingham back into the contest right on the stroke of half-time. Foster's long punt forward looked straight forward to deal with, but Coloccini missed his clearance under pressure from Jerome, Krul came rushing to the edge of his area only to miss the ball, and although Coloccini prevented Jerome from scoring, ex-Magpie Lee Bowyer fired home the loose ball to give the visitors hope going into the break.

Newcastle started the second period brightly as they looked to put the contest out of reach, with full-back Jose Enrique sending a sighter from long range just off target, before Ameobi headed narrowly over having risen above the visiting defence.

The host's numerical advantage was starting to tell as they enjoyed large spells of possession, with Cheik Tiote and Barton in particular spraying passes all around the pitch. Chances though were harder to come by against a resolute Birmingham rearguard. Just past the hour mark Enrique's excellent delivery from the left went untouched, while captain Nolan fluffed his lines completely with a 15-yard volley.

But the pressure was slowly building. Tiote was next to try his luck, curling over from 20 yards, Gutierrez saw a drive deflected away, and manager Alan Pardew introduced young striker Nile Ranger to turn that possession into goals.

Newcastle's third goal almost in the 74th minute courtesy of another Barton set-piece. The midfielder looked set to go for goal from a 25-yard free-kick but changed his mind at the last minute, chipping the ball over the wall for Nolan to loop a header towards the far corner, which Foster did well to claim. And the keeper was at his best again almost immediately, getting down to his left to keep out Ranger's effort after the front man had burst through the visiting defence.

For all the action at one end of the pitch, Birmingham should have equalised with nine minutes remaining. Mapgpies keeper Krul was put under pressure from Bowyer as he rose to collect a Jean Beausejour delivery, and when he fumbled his catch Larsson pounced but spared the stopper's blushes by poking wide.

That was as close as the Blues came though, with Newcastle deserving the victory which could have come with a more emphatic scoreline.

 

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Jose Enrique; Joey Barton, Cheik Tiote, Kevin Nolan (c), Jonas Gutierrez; Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands (Nile Ranger 71)

Subs not used: Steve Harper, James Tavernier, Shane Ferguson, Ryan Taylor, Ryan Donaldson, Shefki Kuqi

 

Birmingham City (4-5-1): Ben Foster; Stephen Csrr (c), Roger Johnson, Martin Jiranek, Liam Ridgewell; Sebastian Larsson, Lee Bowyer, Barry Ferguson, Keith Fahey (Matt Derbyshire 77), Jean Beausejour; Cameron Jerome

Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Stuart Parnaby, Curtis Davies, David Bentley, Alexander Hleb, Kevin Phillips

 

Referee: Chris Foy (Lancashire)

 

Attendance: 47,409

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