High praise after positive play

Alan Curbishley was delighted with the efforts of his players after an enjoyable if ultimately frustrating home draw with Newcastle United.

On a sunny afternoon at the Boleyn Ground, Mark Noble and Dean Ashton strikes saw the home side race into a two-goal lead. However, Obafemi Martins and Geremi forced the visitors back into the contest just before half-time. Curbishley's men kept going after the interval, with terrific support from a home crowd buoyed by the presence of former great Paolo Di Canio, but could not find the winning goal.


Despite knowing "we should have finished the game off", Curbishley was happy with the play and grateful for the crowd backing after the frustration all round in the wake of a hard-fought 2-1 win against relegated Derby. "We asked them to get behind us today and they showed that from the first minute. We responded, we just couldn't get through to half-time. You can't judge how a game is going to go. We are really pleased with the support we got today, it does make a difference.

"We have played ever so well for 40 minutes, it could have been a couple more," added the manager, who knew the first goal against was key. "We just had a crazy couple of minutes, perhaps overplayed it in the middle of the park, got caught with it and it was a terrific ball from [Joey] Barton to put it over the top and I think that is what Martins feeds on. Young [James] Tomkins just caught under it and had to make a decision but that is another learning curve for him."

Tomkins yet again earned special praise from Curbishley for a highly impressive display overall that saw him unfazed by a starting role against strikers like Martins, Mark Viduka and Michael Owen. "He has played ever so well again but you are playing against top-class forwards and that [goal] turned the game back in their favour. We just needed to get through that couple of minutes. I am delighted with the way we played for the whole game but obviously two wasn't enough."

Also earning the manager's attention was Scott Parker, who enjoyed a terrific tussle with Barton in midfield and was a driving force against his old club. "I think Scott ran himself into the ground and I did say to afterwards that I just wish he would shoot a little bit more. He is getting himself in the final third and trying to play other people. If he has a shot, it might hit someone and go in the other corner. Their second goal was an example of that, it smashed back and I think it was going wide before Geremi touched it."

There was a negative to the day though with Freddie Ljungberg, who is looking forward to leading Sweden at the European Championship this June, suffering an injury following a challenge with Steven Taylor. "We think he has got a cracked rib. Taylor came down on him ... as he has gone through, Taylor has tried to get back, tried to leapfrog him and landed on him. He has been raked all down the front and the side of his face and cracked a rib. Another one goes out but we hope he is OK for the Euros."

The manager was not certain that Matthew Upson, Jonathan Spector and Anton Ferdinand would add to his central defensive options before the trip to Manchester United next weekend. "[Upson] trained on Wednesday, trained Thursday and we thought he was back ... Jon Spector has got a chance, he has got a bit more of a chance than Anton Ferdinand. I have been happy with Tomkins and Lucas Neill in there, Johnny Pantsil has come in.

"I have been saying all season that our problems have made our squad stronger. Squad players are getting games. Once again they have done that today and got more experience. We will see how we are for Man United. It is a big game and we need to get something in the next two games to stay in that tenth position."