Newcastle United 2 West Bromwich Albion 1
It was the same old West Bromwich Albion story of late at St James’ Park. For the third game in a row they were more than competitive but finished the game with nothing and, not for the first time this season, manager Tony Mowbray was left to bemoan his lack of striking talent.
The Baggies could have been dead and buried by half-time - and appeared to be at two-nil down - but the way they played Newcastle United off the park for large periods after the break bore some very encouraging signs for the Baggies as they move forward.
Ishmael Miller got his first goal of the season, for a start, and provided the sort of performance which suggests he is capable of lighting up the Premier League.
Whether he can find the consistency needed remains to be seen but his display at St James' Park was more like it.
If Albion can find that cutting edge to their football they will be a force to be reckoned with; without it they will remain easy pickings for teams with millions of pounds worth of talented players at their disposal.
It was poor defending in the first half that was ultimately to blame for Albion leaving here empty handed.
Mowbray described it as “woeful”, an apt appraisal when considering Ryan Donk’s ill-advised lunge at Shola Ameobi after nine minutes which yielded a penalty.
Joey Barton - who else? - calmly placed it to Carson’s left.
After a hesitant start, Albion got more involved as the half wore on and although Newcastle spurned several half chances one of the clearest opportunities of the half fell to Albion.
A trademark move cut Newcastle open on 34 minutes, Koren’s cute through ball to James Morrison almost begged him to slide it home.
Shay Given was quick off his line and made a good save but it was the kind of glorious opportunity that the Baggies have to start taking.
Habib Beye had a great chance to make it two-nil ten mintues before the break.
Ameobi skipped past Gianni Zuiverloon, who had a terrible evening, and pulled the ball back for the defender but he showed no composure and blazed over.
Beye made amends a few minutes later, however, by laying on the second for Obafemi Martens.
He squeezed a cross in from the by-line for the Nigerian - completely unmarked amid three Albion defenders - to head home from six yards.
Albion’s defending was risible at times and at two-nil at the break it was hard to see how the Baggies were going to get back into the game.
They were much more positive in the second half, although much of their sublime build-up play lacked the requisite quality in the final third.
Newcastle, by contrast, dispensed with neat build-up play in the second-half and seemed content to sit on their lead - much the chagrin of the sizeable and raucous home support - but still maintained a threat where it mattered.
Miller was introduced on 54 minutes, the ineffective Chris Brunt making way, and quickly made an impact.
The striker latched on to another fine Koren through ball and rounded Given with the sort of confidence that has eluded him so far this season.
He nearly doubled his season tally on 72 minutes after being the first to react to a deflected Morrison free kick but Given this time denied him.
By mid-way through the second-half Albion were having things all their own way. Newcastle looked laboured; their fans becoming increasingly anxious.
Albion were playing some lovely stuff but the final piece of quality proved unattainable.
The Baggies may not have deserved to lose three in a row
Scorers: Barton (9, pen), 1-0, Martens (41) 2-0, Miller (65), 2-1.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Given; Enrique, Coloccini, Taylor, Beye; Duff, Guthrie, Barton, Gutierrez (Geremi 71); Ameobi (Carroll 90), Martens (Xisco 77). Subs not used: Bassong, Harper, Nzogbia, Xisco, Edgar, Carroll.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-5-1): Carson; Robinson, Donk, Olsson, Zuiverloon; Brunt (Miller 54), Greening, Valero, Koren, Morrison; Bednar (Moore 67). Subs not used: Kiely, Hoefkens, Cech, MacDonald, Pele.
Referee: Mike Dean.