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Hughton happy to see some old friends again
Final Score: Newcastle United 1 Norwich City 0
THERE were plenty of familiar faces around St James’ Park for Chris Hughton to greet him on his first return to Newcastle United, but one in particular put sentiment aside to leave him with a Premier League headache.
It was during Hughton’s time in charge that Newcastle took Hatem Ben Arfa to Tyneside , initially on loan from Marseille, so the quality of the Frenchman is something the Canaries boss is well aware of.
Despite his knowledge of the forward’s creative prowess, the former Magpies boss couldn’t prevent Ben Arfa from delivering again in a black and white shirt to leave his old boss still searching for a first top-flight win with Norwich City.
Ben Arfa may not have got his name on the scoresheet, but his turn, run and delightful pass in behind the Norwich defence for Demba Ba to score his fourth of the season proved the difference yesterday.
“Hatem scored the wonder goal for me at Everton (his first goal in the Premier League) and had the bad injury,” said Hughton, recalling the moment when Nigel de Jong’s horror tackle in October 2010 left Ben Arfa with a double leg break.
“Irrespective of this game, I am just glad to see him back. He is a class act and can do unbelievable things with the ball.
“I saw him briefly, but my focus is not on him, it’s the disappointment of the result.
But it is good to see him back playing.”
Ben Arfa turned on his magic at just the right time in the first half to dampen down Norwich’s spirits after they had made an encouraging start.
The Canaries did have enough possession to sneak an equaliser in the second half, but Newcastle stood strong to leave Hughton defeated.
Newcastle should have been further ahead before half-time.
Instead Ben Arfa gave up the chance to take a penalty to give Papiss Cisse a chance to boost his confidence, which backfired when he got his aim all wrong.
Nevertheless, despite Cisse’s problems with his form, Newcastle held on to maintain a positive start in which they have lost just once, leaving them tenth after five Premier League games.
Hughton’s return was typical of the man. The unassuming, almost shy, image he had during his time in the North-East was mirrored by his emergence from the tunnel moments before the first whistle.
Blink and you would have missed it. Rather than take in the adulation from the supporters who appreciate the work he did to restore the fortunes of the club, Hughton merely took his place under the hood of the visitors’ dug-out.
The visit to his former club actually showed signs of being a more enjoyable one early on.
Norwich started the brighter and frequently found space down the flanks.
James Perch, starting at right-back for the second game in a row, was particularly pressed, and when Jonny Howson got beyond him to send in a cross it looked like producing a goal.
Wes Hoolahan had positioned himself well but his diving header was deflected for a corner by Steven Taylor . Newcastle looked jaded and not focused, but then two changes helped bring an end to the Canaries’ early prominence.
After Sebastien Bassong’s own return to Tyneside lasted just eight minutes because of injury, former Sunderland defender Michael Turner was introduced at the heart of the Norwich defence.
Shortly after that Pardew, sitting in the stands for the final time because of a two-match touchline ban, identified that Newcastle’s early problems would be rectified by swapping Perch and Vurnon Anita.
Suddenly Anita, who had been quiet in the middle, burst into life and he linked up superbly with Ben Arfa and that was what opened up Norwich on more than one occasion.
The first of those came when Ben Arfa picked up possession on the right, cut inside and rolled a delightful through pass behind the static defence.
Turner woefully played Ba onside and the Senegal international took a touch before side-footing underneath John Ruddy to put Newcastle ahead.
After that Ben Arfa ran the Norwich right side ragged, a nutmeg through the legs of Andrew Surman and a run deep into the Norwich half indicative of his afternoon.
Anything positive from Newcastle going forward tended to go through the former Marseille man, which is why assistant manager John Carver was so enraged when the forward did not take the penalty on the stroke of half-time.
It might seem strange for the coaching staff not to want their £9m striker to take a spot-kick, but with Cisse’s confidence clearly low at the moment he should never have been given it purely to give him a boost.
There were claims that it should not have been a penalty in the first place, but Steve Morison was rash and clumsy in the air and clearly shoved Mike Williamson to the floor.
Either way, Ben Arfa had hold of the ball on the spot.
After being approached by Ba and captain Jonas Gutierrez , he was persuaded to hand over duties to Cisse, who could not have missed the target by more if he tried.
The disagreements and angry words seemed to have an effect, too.
After the restart, Norwich pushed on more and only Steve Harper’s experience and shotstopping prevented Surman from equalising when he raced clear.
A second Newcastle goal would have calmed things down and Cisse had a chance to make amends, but he scuffed a routine chance into the arms of Ruddy when he was put in by a long pass from Perch.
With Pardew sensing Newcastle could actually throw their lead away, Cisse’s frustrating afternoon was brought to an end 20 minutes before time, with Gabriel Obertan asked to spark Newcastle back to life.
What happened, though, was entirely the opposite.
With the exception of one run into the Norwich half, it was the yellow shirts that did the attacking in the closing stages.
Harper had to be alert to hold a couple of efforts which came his way as Hughton’s players pressed, sensing that they could pinch something.
But Newcastle did hold on, maintaining a solid enough start to a busy first six weeks of the season, even if there was only one man somewhere near his best.