Best brace sinks Fulham
Toon striker at the double as Krul display denies Fulham
By Jamie Casey. Last Updated: 28/08/11 5:12pm
Best: Two goal hero for Newcastle in win over Fulham
Leon Best netted a second-half brace to ultimately earn unbeaten Newcastle a 2-1 win over Fulham at St James' Park.
Following a dire first-half in which Best was lacklustre, the striker sprung to life after the break, scoring twice in 18 minutes to put the hosts in control.
Newcastle had goalkeeping Tim Krul to thank for keeping Fulham out on numerous occasions, but he was beaten by a looping Clint Dempsey header with two minutes remaining.
The Magpies came under intense pressure in the closing stages, but Krul remained level-headed as Newcastle ran down the clock on the counter-attack.
It was far from a vintage performance by the home side, but just as they did at Sunderland last weekend, they got the job done to bank another precious three points.
There were around 10,000 empty seats inside the stadium as the game kicked off, with an attendance of 42,684.
Matters were not helped by the injury to Ameobi which saw Newcastle boss Alan Pardew turn once again to Best and Peter Lovenkrands.
And as Fulham dominated the early stages with the Magpies unable to compete in the middle of the field, the mounting frustration was almost tangible.
Lack of depth
However, for all that the current squad may lack strength in depth, there is little shortage of courage and commitment and the fact that they were able to limit the visitors to a single shot on target brought some comfort.
Newcastle were disjointed in the middle of the field, perhaps missing the influential Joey Barton, who departed for Queens Park Rangers on Friday.
And it was not until Cheick Tiote, who is gradually shaking off the after-effects of an interrupted pre-season, managed to make his presence felt that the Magpies began to push the Cottagers back.
Pardew's side still 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 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 Steve 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.
Dempsey fired just wide from a tight angle and Duff blasted into the side netting with Fulham searching desperately for a way back into the game.
However, their hopes were dashed with 66 minutes gone when substitute Demba Ba controlled Gabriel Obertan's inviting pass and cross 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.
|Newcastle United||Team Statistics||Fulham|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||6|
|3||Shots off Target||7|
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Ham United||5||7|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||5||5|
|18||Queens Park Rangers||5||4|