Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Bench Men Step Up to Keep Toon Ticking

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Bench Men Step Up to Keep Toon Ticking

Article excerpt

Byline: John Gibson

WHEN a team loses the players at its very heart there is a dire need for someone to step up to the plate.

So it was yesterday lunchtime with United, who had Cheick Tiote on another continent and then lost his central midfield partner Yohan Cabaye to a shockingly misjudged tackle by Shaun Derry within the first 25 minutes.

That put a huge onus upon Danny Guthrie, desperately short of match practice after missing United's last seven games through injury.

Yet a young man groomed in the passing school of Liverpool took over the mantle of senior pro to keep Newcastle on the boil.

Pass and move is Guthrie's game and he covered every blade of grass - twice - to reduce QPR to surrender.

Hatem Ben Arfa was the player called up from the subs' bench when Cabaye was stretchered off, yet the very fact that he started there confirmed the lack of trust United have in a potential match-winner. After scoring at Bolton in a 2-0 victory with an instinctive left-foot shot, Ben Arfa failed to start the next game and here he was dropped despite what Alan Pardew described as "the best goal I've ever seen live" against Blackburn in the FA Cup.

Yet the official thinking of the management was revealed in a prematch statement from United's boss, who places great emphasis on work rate and willingness.

"Ben Arfa needs to put in more effort for this team," said Pardew, who is very much a stats man. "He needs to understand that we have got success here through the commitment we put into training every day and into games. Sometimes I don't think he gets that."

Football fans love artists, of course, and Ben Arfa was cheered to the rafters when he appeared on the touchline as Cabaye's replacement. Though there is a belief that he's best in the hole where he is rid of any tracking back, Ben Arfa went wide right and, as expected, displayed some intricate footwork and a radar vision for the killer pass. …

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