DEMBA Ba sent Newcastle United third in the Premier League with his second hat-trick of the season – then insisted Stoke City had made a mistake in not signing him.
Alan Pardew’s side stretched their unbeaten league run to 10 games, with Ba enjoying his best game yet for the club he joined in the summer.
The 26-year-old left the field clutching the match ball for the second time this season, having netted three goals against Blackburn Rovers in September.
However, had Stoke not pulled out of a deal for the then-Hoffenheim striker Ba in January, citing an issue with his medical, he would have been wearing red and white stripes.
Ba was verbally abused by the home fans after his first goal at the Boothen End, and he was happy to silence them with his second and third strikes.
“Yes, I nearly joined Stoke,” Ba said. “I don’t really want to talk about them.
“They made a mistake. They have to move on and stop talking every time I’m about to play against them. The best way to silence them is to score.
“It’s the same joy I had against Blackburn. It was special to score a hat-trick against Blackburn, but I enjoy all goals.
“We just work hard, and it gets us results. That’s why everybody’s so pleased with the result. I think I’m playing at a good level, but I can still get better, this is for sure.”
But for all Ba’s predatory instincts in front of goal, credit has to go to manager Alan Pardew for getting the game plan right.
Key to combating Stoke’s strengths is cutting off their delivery at source and Ba was the first line of defence in that respect as he was detailed to get straight on to goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and prevent him kicking out early.
There was also plenty of hard work done out out wide, especially on Newcastle’s left, with winger Jonas Gutierrez spending more time doubling up with Ryan Taylor on Jermaine Pennant than he did attacking.
When it came to defending set-pieces striker Leon Best was employed to good effect at the back to combat their opponents’ aerial power while Gabriel Obertan occupied a high, wide position to ensure there was always an attacking outlet.
Ba’s 12th-minute opener would not have looked out of place in the Stoke coaching manual.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul’s kick was headed on by Best to Obertan, who found space behind left-back Marc Wilson. The Frenchman’s inviting cross into the six-yard area picked out Ba, who headed the ball back inside the near post.
Krul almost gifted the home side an equaliser when he dropped Andy Wilkinson’s high cross and the ball fortuitously rolled behind rather than across his goalline but he made up for it with a diving catch to hang on to Matt Etherington’s left-foot volley from outside the penalty area.
That allowed the Magpies to double their lead five minutes before the interval when Upson could only help Fabricio Coloccini’s lofted pass on to Best on the right of the penalty area and his mis-hit shot rolled to Ba who tapped in.
The home side improved after the break with Robert Huth going close with a header but Newcastle, who have conceded seven goals in 10 league matches, defended well.
With still no sign of a breakthrough Kenwyne Jones replaced Etherington for the last quarter and within five minutes Stoke pulled one back.
Upson’s goalbound effort was headed away by Coloccini but Ba fouled Peter Crouch in the ensuing scramble and Walters fired home the penalty.
But barely had the recovery begun then it was ended as referee Mike Dean penalised Huth for a small push on Best and Ba drilled home from the spot.
Stoke City: Begovic, Wilkinson, Shawcross (Upson 19), Woodgate, Wilson (Huth 41), Pennant, Delap, Whelan, Etherington (Jones 68), Walters, Crouch. Subs Not Used: Sorensen, Whitehead, Jerome, Palacios. Goals: Walters 75 pen.
Newcastle United: Krul, Simpson, Steven Taylor, Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Obertan, Guthrie (Gosling 90), Cabaye (Perch 78), Gutierrez, Best (Sammy Ameobi 86), Ba. Subs Not Used: Elliot, Santon, Ben Arfa, Marveaux. Booked: Perch. Goals: Ba 12, 40, 81 pen.
Att: 26, 564 Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).