Toon fight back to hold Spurs

Local hero Shola Ameobi came off the bench to blast home his side’s

second equaliser four minutes from time as a pulsating encounter

ended all square. Jermain Defoe looked to have won it for the

visitors when he fired past Tim Krul with 68 minutes gone, but

Ameobi denied Spurs a fifth successive Premier League win to the

delight of the majority of the 46,420 crowd. Rafael van der Vaart

had put Harry Redknapp’s men ahead from the penalty spot five

minutes before the break, but Demba Ba’s equaliser – his fifth goal

in three games – within three minutes of the restart set the scene

for the late drama. Newcastle ran out knowing they were facing

perhaps the toughest test of their campaign to date, but confident

that they could come through it. For 40 minutes, they gave as good

as they got in a game in which the impetus repeatedly shifted

between the sides. Spurs started brightly with Gareth Bale having

been switched to the right wing to chance his arm against makeshift

left-back Ryan Taylor. In the event, the former Wigan man coped

admirably and long before half-time Bale returned to his more usual

position on the left, leaving Taylor to deal with Luka Modric

instead. The visitors passed the ball confidently in the opening

exchanges with Newcastle old boy Scott Parker and Modric prominent,

and Emmanuel Adebayor, whose participation was in doubt because of

a hamstring injury, stretching the home defence at regular

intervals. That said, chances were few and far between, and

although Krul had to race from his line to snatch van der Vaart’s

seventh-minute through-ball off Adebayor’s toe and then pluck a

looping Jake Livermore header out of the air four minutes later,

there were few genuine scares for the Dutchman. As the half wore

on, the Magpies warmed to their task and with wide-men Gabriel

Obertan and Jonas Gutierrez causing problems and Yohan Cabaye and

Cheick Tiote edging things in the middle of the pitch, they started

to threaten. Leon Best only just failed to get a toe to Ryan

Taylor’s driven 13th-minute free-kick and Ba headed straight at

keeper Brad Friedel from Cabaye’s cross 11 minutes later. But the

breakthrough arrived five minutes before half-time, and it did so

to the horror of Newcastle defender Steven Taylor. Taylor tracked

Adebayor’s run into the penalty area and saw the former Togo

international go down under his challenge. Referee Lee Probert took

his time with the defender protesting his innocence but eventually

pointed to the spot and, amid a cacophony of boos from the home

fans, van der Vaart sent Krul the wrong way to open the scoring. Ba

headed high over from Cabaye’s 42nd-minute cross as the Magpies

attempted to drag themselves back into the game, but they headed

for the dressing room on the whistle knowing they had a tough task

on their hands. Newcastle needed just three minutes to get

themselves back on terms, and they did so in some style as

Gutierrez produced a wonderful, mazy run. The Argentina

international skipped pass Modric and then full-back Kyle Walker on

the left before crossing for the unmarked Ba to slide in and send

the ball goalwards, where Friedel could only carry it into his own

net. Sensing an opportunity to win the game, the Magpies piled

forward in numbers, but in doing so, opened themselves up to Spurs’

pace on the counter-attack. Adebayor fired across the face of goal

and van der Vaart shot straight at Krul with the home defence

struggling to keep the visitors at bay. But in the meantime,

Obertan had whistled a 56th-minute drive just wide of Friedel’s far

post in a frenetic passage of play. Redknapp opted for even more

pace with 63 minutes gone when he replaced van der Vaart with

Defoe, and the newcomer wasted little time in making his mark.

Having already forced Krul to sprint from his line to cut out

Parker’s through-ball, he turned smartly on the midfielder’s pass

to thump a left-footed shot past the keeper and into the bottom

corner. Pardew threw on Hatem Ben Arfa and Ameobi after withdrawing

Ba and Best with 19 minutes remaining, and it was the home side

which finished the stronger. Friedel had to pull off fine saves

from Tiote and then Ryan Taylor as time ran down, but there was

nothing he could do to prevent Ameobi from snatching a point with

his drilled 86th-minute strike. Defoe and Fabricio Coloccini both

might have won it in a breathless conclusion, but the spoils were

ultimately shared.