Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Best brace seals Magpies win

Leon Best

Forgotten man Leon Best claimed a double as Newcastle continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 2-1 victory over Fulham.

The Republic of Ireland international, who was drafted in as a replacement for the injured Shola Ameobi, opened the scoring three minutes after the break and then added a 66th-minute second to secure a second successive Barclays Premier League win.

However, the Magpies were indebted to three fine saves from keeper Tim Krul, who denied Steve Sidwell, Chris Baird and Danny Murphy, although he was finally beaten by Clint Dempsey with two minutes remaining.

Newcastle struggled to create anything of note until the game exploded into life with the half-time whistle fast-approaching. Winger Jonas Gutierrez forced Mark Schwarzer into his first save of the half with a 44th-minute header, and that was the cue for the home side to make a late push.

Former Magpie Aaron Hughes got in a vital block to deny Best after he had turned smartly inside the box, and Mark Schwarzer had to tip a curling Yohan Cabaye effort over his crossbar. From the resulting corner, the ball dropped to last weekend's derby hero Ryan Taylor, and his shot from 20 yards flew inches past the far post with the Fulham keeper stranded.

Newcastle returned with their momentum intact and forced their way in front within three minutes of the restart. Schwarzer could only palm Cabaye's shot onto the crossbar after it had bounced nastily in front of him and Best when in the right place at the right time to tap home.

The lead might have been short-lived had Krul not been at his best with 56 minutes gone. Damien Duff and Baird exchanged passes on the right before the winger sent in a cross which Sidwell headed powerfully towards goal, only for the Dutchman to turn his effort onto the bar and enjoy better fortune than his opposite number as the ball went out for a corner.

Fulham's hopes of a comeback were dashed with 66 minutes gone when substitute Demba Ba controlled Gabriel Obertan's inviting pass and crossed for Best to turn smartly inside the area and fire past Schwarzer.

Krul pulled off fine saves to deny first Baird and then Murphy as the Magpies fought stubbornly to protect their clean sheet. But they found themselves under pressure once again as they conceded a series of late free-kicks, and their defences were finally pierced from one of them with two minutes remaining when Dempsey headed him from Murphy's cross.

Schwarzer tipped an injury-time piledriver from Ba onto the woodwork, but there was no way back for his side.