Friday 23 March 2018

Cabaye picks good time to prove quality

Louise Taylor

Rather like Alan Pardew's team as a whole, Yohan Cabaye endured a deceptively excruciating afternoon. Whether conceding possession cheaply or being second guessed by Wigan's Ben Watson, the France international midfielder's touch and talent seemed to have deserted him.

Fortunately for Newcastle it proved a temporary blip, Cabaye reminding everyone of his true capabilities with an immaculately executed winner. Quite apart from extending his side's impressive start to the season, that imperious drive into the top corner from the edge of the area condemned Wigan to a sixth straight Premier League defeat.

With their local team unbeaten in all competitions, Newcastle airport may soon be making plans to lay on extra Europe-bound midweek flights next year but Pardew knows they cannot expect to enjoy too much more luck like this.

"Wigan were faster and crisper," he acknowledged. "Some desperate defending kept us in it. I'm a little disappointed in this performance but Yohan's goal was worth the admission money. He's class."

Fear of being replaced and a deep-seated desire to confound the doubters have combined to propel Pardew's players into the top four but they began in strangely complacent mood.

Newcastle's manager has made much of the Tynesiders' much enhanced ability to retain possession but, regressing to bad old slapdash habits, they kept giving the ball away with neither Cabaye or even the usually commanding Cheik Tiote looking entirely comfortable.

Perhaps the plaudits had gone to a few heads because when Wigan's Antolin Alcaraz denied Leon Best a potential 30th minute goal with a superbly timed penalty area tackle, Ali Al-Habsi had still to make a significant save. In contrast Newcastle's goalkeeper, Tim Krul performed wonders to repel a shot from the lively Victor Moses. A subsequent home reprieve arrived when Hugo Rodallega connected with David Jones's superb through ball but, clean through, screwed his shot wide.

Pardew benefited from further good fortune when Neil Swarbrick declined to brandish the red card Best's appalling late challenge on Maynor Figeuroa demanded, the referee instead settling for a yellow. Sensibly, he quickly replaced Best with Hatem Ben Arfa but, initially, the improvement appeared slight. Bored, St James' amused itself by serenading Wigan's diminutive midfielder Albert Crusat, aka the Premier League's smallest player, with choruses of "Are you really five-foot five?"

Such Geordie humour could not quite disguise the reality that Roberto Martinez's ensemble were still playing most of the superior football. Pacing his technical area in increasingly irascible fashion, the home manager sent on Shola Ameobi and Sylvain Marveaux. The latter's introduction was swiftly vindicated when, turning cleverly, Marveaux controlled Ryan Taylor's cross before cueing up Cabaye's winner.

"I'm very disappointed," said Martinez. "We neutralised Newcastle and dictated but just couldn't score."


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