Premier League - Newcastle held at Blackburn

Sat, 12 Feb 16:52:00 2011

Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United shared a drab goalless draw in their Premier League clash at Ewood Park in which the visitors came closer to prevailing.

Match Highlights: Blackburn

The woodwork was struck twice, once by either side, in a first half which was full of energy and endeavour, but devoid of a cutting edge or conviction in the final third of the field.

Neither side was able to inject any killer impact into an equally dour second period, as both sets of fans left Ewood Park quite staggered by their side's lack of class in front of goal, while Newcastle can claim to have been more deserving of a victory.

Alan Pardew's new signing striker Shefki Kuqi was confined to a place on the substitutes bench as Leon Best partnered Peter Lovenkrands in a two-man Magpies strikeforce, while Roque Santa Cruz was alongside Nikola Kalinic for the hosts.

Without doubt the distinguished performer was Newcastle left-back Jose Enrique, and the Spaniard hurtled down the flank at pace in the sixth minute, before drilling over a low cross into the six-yard box, only for Kevin Nolan to slide agonisingly short of turning the ball past Paul Robinson from close range.

Blackburn striker Santa Cruz should have broken the deadlock in the ninth minute as Christopher Samba headed on a long punt from Robinson, but the striker could only direct his close-range header against the far post with Steve Harper stranded.

The Paraguayan forward has now mustered just one solitary strike in 15 Premier League games, and his lack of confidence in front of goal was patently clear.

Newcastle could so easily have made Blackburn pay for their profligacy in front of goal, only for Lovenkrands to be denied by the crossbar in the 14th minute: Enrique dispossessed Santa Cruz before delivering a quite stunning raking long ball which the Dane latched on to before lobbing Robinson. The woodwork came to Blackburn's rescue with the former England goalkeeper comprehensively beaten.

Blackburn boss Steve Kean made two changes at the break as the ineffectual David Hoilett and Santa Cruz were replaced by Morten Gamst Pedersen and Jason Roberts.

Newcastle began the second half the brighter, and Robinson was forced into pulling off a very fine reflex save in the 54th minute as Fabricio Coloccini latched on to a loose ball from a Joey Barton corner and volleyed on target from close range.

Indeed, the visitors enjoyed 60 per cent of possession after the restart, and Blackburn were forced to defend stoutly to repel the onslaught of pressure for sustained periods, despite the Magpies lacking potency in attack.

Newcastle's frustration at failing to break down a stubborn and obdurate Blackburn defence boiled over at times, with Pardew having to withdraw Lovenkrands following a furious row between the Dane and Enrique late on, which forced Coloccini to swiftly intervene.

Enrique produced another marauding run into the Blackburn box before showing incredible footwork to evade three challenges, but his shot was courageously blocked by Michel Salgado in front of Robinson.

Kuqi was belatedly introduced in stoppage time, but the Finn could not make the required impact as the final stages of an ultimately disappointing encounter petered out poorly.

The two sides sat in 10th and 11th places respectively with 31 points a piece on the board, and neither was able to force a late winner to seize the initiative as those spots were consolidated tamely.

Dan Quarrell / Eurosport

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