Danny Simpson - Newcastle United News

A depleted Newcastle side succumbed to Norwich’s impressive physical prowess in an entertaining encounter at Carrow Road. Grant Holt’s double helped the Canaries on their way, with Demba Ba’s brace not enough for the Geordies to come away from East Anglia with anything.

With no recognised centre-backs in the Newcastle ranks, Alan Pardew chose a central defence consisting of perennial fringe player James Perch and regular right-back Danny Simpson. It was no coincidence that the pair – neither of which are even six foot tall – struggled with Holt and Steve Morison’s aerial ability, and three of Norwich’s four goals came from headers.

Referee Martin Atkinson was the centre of attention in the first half, when he denied the home side a penalty after Davide Santon appeared to have handballed a cross from Kyle Naughton. The whistler then judged Tim Krul to have taken the ball behind when catching and awarded Norwich a corner, which was duly converted thanks to Wesley Hoolahan’s scrappy effort.

The visitors responded well though, with Yohan Cabaye pulling the strings in midfield beautifully and setting up Demba Ba with an exquisite chip. The Senegal striker easily beat John Ruddy to claim his 10th goal in as many games.

Ba almost had a second when his shot from an uninviting angle skimmed off the top of the bar, but Norwich were to restore their lead when a clever short corner caught out the Magpies. Krul did well to save Holt’s initial header, but the powerful striker reacted first to head home the rebound with the help of the crossbar.

There was no time for a Newcastle comeback as their efforts were undone by one of their own. Dan Gosling, making his first start of the season for the visitors, gifted Andrew Crofts the ball with a shocking back pass. Crofts instantly picked out Morison with a good cross and the Wales international powered home his header to give Norwich a 2-goal cushion. Gosling’s miserable debut was compounded minutes later when he was sent off for a lunge on Russell Martin.

The reduction to 10-men seemed to inspire Newcastle, and they soon pulled themselves back within one goal, when Shola Ameobi won the ball back off Zak Whitbread before threading in Ba, who promptly finished from 18 yards.

With Hatem Ben Arfa remaining on the bench throughout, Alan Pardew’s side couldn’t get the equaliser and the game was killed when Holt’s close-range header from Bradley Johnson’s cross beat Krul.

The defeat means Newcastle slip to 7th in the league, with a comfortable 7-point gap over 8th placed Aston Villa. However, with the defence looking this frail and injuries and suspension’s not disappearing quickly, the early-season bubble the Magpies were enjoying looks to have burst.