Newcastle United stand firm to maintain a solid start

NEWCASTLE United navigated their reunion with Joey Barton and a highly-motivated Queens Park Rangers to secure the hard-fought point that moved them into fourth in the early Premier League standings.

Joey Barton (left) greets the Newcastle team during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle United

NEWCASTLE United navigated their reunion with Joey Barton and a highly-motivated Queens Park Rangers to secure the hard-fought point that moved them into fourth in the early Premier League standings.

United, outplayed for long periods and hanging on during a traumatic first half, were grateful for a hard-earned draw at Loftus Road in a game that their centre-back pairing of Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor were once again outstanding.

But Alan Pardew will recognise the desperate need to improve in the forward area, where Shola Ameobi and Leon Best looked isolated and ineffective throughout.

That was not entirely their fault as United set up to protect their goal once again – with Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote both in withdrawn midfield positions.

But United had only two chances of note in the entire game, a Best turn and snapshot that forced Paddy Kenny into a scrambling save and a header from the Republic of Ireland striker in the second half that flew aimlessly wide.

Rangers, by contrast, were a threat throughout as a team re-energised by serious deadline day spending looked to make a point.

United were forced to clear off the line twice in a frenetic first half – with Danny Simpson rolling a Bothroyd header wide and Steven Taylor clearing brilliantly from a Shaun Wright-Phillips lob as the first half concluded.

They were at least spared too many blushes by a less-than-influential performance from their former number seven, granted a mixed reaction by the 1,200-odd Newcastle supporters who crammed into an electric Loftus Road.

While Barton was largely anonymous against his former team-mates, it fell to another ex-Manchester City man signed on deadline day to torment the visitors.

United struggled to contain QPR new boy Shaun Wright-Phillips for long spells in the first half as he pulled the strings.

Three times he teed up Bothroyd in the first period and on all three occasions the striker failed to convert what were gilt-edged opportunities.

Newcastle tried a succession of combinations up front as the second half wore on, but none managed to prompt much panic among the Rangers defence, with second-half substitute Demba Ba a marginal improvement on Shola Ameobi.

Meanwhile, Neil Warnock said he was impressed by Barton’s debut.

“I think in the circumstances he did OK,” he said. “I told him to play the game, not the occasion and I thought he did.

“He epitomised everything we were about – he improved the players around him.”

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