Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Victory Cannot Disguise United's Frailties

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Victory Cannot Disguise United's Frailties

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

SIMPLY THE BEST his second against WITH seven points in three games, it has been a good start to the new Premier League season for Newcastle United.

Hopefully not too good. Just as a few bad results can lead to panic-buying on deadline day, so a few good ones can create a false sense of security.

They have been here before. Last January, when the Magpies were scrambling to find an 11th-hour replacement for Andy Carroll, they did so with the assurance that Leon Best was fresh from a top-flight hat-trick.

Eight months on, Best and Peter Lovenkrands - the third and fourth-choice strikers in the New Year - were again manning the front line again as Fulham came to town.

Like Shola Ameobi, Demba Ba has a dubious injury record. With those two in the ranks, a fifth striker is needed. It is something manager Alan Pardew is aware of, but has so far been unable to address. Pardew must hope owner Mike Ashley is not deafened to the urgency of his pleas by the comfort blanket that is the league table.

Printing the standings at this stage of the campaign is a nonsense anyway, but gives a particularly misleading impression for Newcastle at a stage of the campaign before their squad depth has been put to the test.

The defence is in good shape, Tim Krul unlucky to miss out on a third clean sheet of the season after a trio of outstanding saves, while Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor impressed again, albeit against insipid opponents. Scratch beneath the surface, though, and there is little cover for the back four. Mike Williamson's midweek injury has left them soft in the centre, and the problems are full-back are still to be dealt with.

For now, though, the going is good after taking three points from a real slow burner of a game.

Lunchtime kick-offs can be flat at the best of times, and there was almost as much action in three added first-half minutes as the 45 preceding them.

Newcastle have been working hard to sell the club to signings this summer on the basis that they will can play in front of a passionate, throbbing St James' Park. After yesterday's lacklustre bank holiday game, a few might have asked their agents to contact Trading Standards. This was more like a wet Friday night in Lorient with 10,000 empty seats and little from either the 433 from west London or the players to provoke much reaction. There were not even any anti-Ashley chants to break the awkward silences until a 73rd-minute attempt which never got going, and not a peep about Joey Barton.

It was the 43rd minute when the game shook itself from its slumber with a clever Yohan Cabaye pass out to Ryan Taylor. Aaron Hughes cleared the makeshift fullback's cross.

When Cheik Tiote crossed a moment later, Jonas Gutierrez flicked a header Mark Schwarzer had to be at full stretch to save. …

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