Monday 20 November 2017

Free-scoring Ba banking on hard work to kick-start Newcastle revival

Damian Spellman

Goal hero Demba Ba insists he will be happy as long as Newcastle are winning – even if he is not finding the back of the net.

The 27-year-old Senegal international took his tally for the season to 10 – level at the top of the Premier League scoring stakes with Manchester United's Robin van Persie, Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Swansea's Michu – with a double in Monday night's 3-0 victory over Wigan.

However, while Ba's latest salvo took him to a personal milestone, it proved crucial to the Magpies as it paved the way for them to end a run of four successive league defeats, and that was as big a cause for celebration.

"It's not too bad so far," he said. "I will just keep on doing my work and if it comes, it comes; if it doesn't, it doesn't matter as long as we win."

Ba's third double of the campaign – he also scored twice in 2-2 draws at Everton and Reading – could hardly have been better timed, arriving just hours after it emerged that talks over a new contract that would remove the release-clause which has thrown his future on Tyneside into doubt are yet to reach fruition.

While the Magpies are adamant talks are ongoing, Liverpool and Arsenal are among those to have been credited with an interest in the frontman, although the final bill would be significantly higher than the £7.5m stipulated should any suitor make a move when additional fees and in particular wages are taken into account.

However, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is desperate to retain Ba's services and just as he was during the summer as speculation mounted that a bid could be forthcoming, he is hopeful that the former Hoffenheim hitman is happy at St James' Park and keen to stay.

In the meantime, the man himself is concentrating only on the task of helping to drag last season's surprise package away from the wrong end of the table after a difficult start to the league campaign.

Monday's win was just their second in 10 attempts and while they remain in 14th place, they are now significantly closer to the top six than they were before kick-off.

Four successive defeats had left Pardew's side in the spotlight, but a much-improved display at Stoke last Wednesday set the stage for a hugely important win.

Ba said: "All I know is what we proved on the pitch last night, what we did on Wednesday as well.

"We have shown people that we still have the spirit and we still want to win and go forward.

"It was very good, it was very good to win after these last weeks. Now we just have to keep our heads down and keep working and keep doing what we did against Wigan."

Newcastle's cause was aided by referee Mike Jones' decision to award a penalty and send off Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa for his 12th-minute challenge on Papiss Cisse, a decision with which Latics boss Roberto Martinez fundamentally disagreed.

Ba thumped the spot-kick past Ali Al Habsi, and when he struck again after the 'keeper could only parry Davide Santon's 21st-minute shot, the Magpies were on their way.

Nevertheless, it was not until substitute Gael Bigirimana struck with a fine third 19 minutes from time that Newcastle were able to relax.

Martinez was dismayed to say the least about the sending-off, but pleased with the way his players responded to the early setback.

He said: "At half-time, they would have been allowed to feel sorry for themselves, but they didn't. We wanted to get back into the game. We needed to score early and unfortunately, we conceded another goal.

"But the performance in the second half was ourselves. We controlled the game and in many ways, I was very pleased with the reaction of the players."

Meanwhile, Pardew has hinted that he will head for tomorrow night's Europa League tie in Bordeaux without many of his big names as he keeps them in reserve for Monday's league trip to Fulham.

He said: "Our fans need to know that I'm going to have to protect our side because we have got massive games coming up.

"I can't afford to lose anybody in that game, so there will be a few debuts there and if we have got fans flying over or thinking about it, they need to know that."

Irish Independent

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