NEWCASTLE boss Alan Pardew says that team spirit will only take them so far this season.
Demba Ba’s two goals – the second off his hand – earned the club a scarcely-deserved point against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium on Saturday.
Pardew, taunted by the home fans on his return to Reading, where he started his managerial career, has conceded his team are still to find their rhythm going forward.
However, the togetherness and spirit of his players has ensured the club has still picked up enough points to stay in the top half of the Premier League.
Newcastle are ninth in the division, with their only defeat having come away to Chelsea last month.
Injury-hit United are a work in progress this term, with Pardew hoping his attacking players will click sooner rather than later.
“I keep saying that we’re struggling to get our rhythm in these games,” Pardew said.
“This was a tough place to come – the energy levels of Reading were fantastic. They showed a lot of quality.
“We were struggling for long periods and our spirit has seen us get a point again.
“We can’t keep relying on our spirit. We’ll have to play a lot better than that if we’re going to get wins, especially away from home.”
Reading had the best chance of the first half when Pavel Pogrebnyak’s header was palmed over by Steve Harper. But otherwise there was little to get the fans of either side excited.
It took 24 minutes for the first shot on goal, which fell to the left-back Nicky Shorey and his volley went out for a throw-in, which summed up the quality of football on show.
Pogrebnyak then found himself a yard of space in the Newcastle box, but the ball bounced awkwardly and he shinned it over the bar into the crowd.
Reading worked the ball wide for McAnuff, who curled an inviting cross in for Pogrebnyak to meet above Taylor at the far post, but Harper launched himself well to tip his header over the bar.
James Perch was booked for a foul on McAnuff, but then provided vital intervention as Pogrebnyak was readying to shoot, after chesting the ball down in the box.
Pogrebnyak continued to cause problems after the restart, getting the better of Taylor to break into the box, but his control was poor and Michael Williamson cleared.
Cisse’s low shot was blocked by Kaspars Gorkss and suddenly the game awoke from its slumbers with three goals in four minutes.
Kebe put Reading ahead. The Mali striker was played in by McAnuff and ran at Perch, who got himself in a tangle and Kebe scuffed a low shot inside the near post.
Newcastle hit back within seconds and it was no surprise that Tiote was the creator, clipping the ball towards Ba, who met it with spectacular volley on the run.
With barely a chance to draw breath, McAnuff then worked his way to the byline and whipped in a cross which Hunt met with a precise, glancing header to beat Harper at his far post.
Newcastle earned their point six minutes from time in controversial fashion when Ba stooped to meet Shane Ferguson’s cross. He did not connect with his head, but the ball struck his hand and was diverted past the Reading keeper.
Reading: McCarthy, Cummings, Gorkss, Mariappa, Shorey, Kebe (McCleary 70), Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Pogrebnyak (Roberts 77), Hunt (Le Fondre 86). Subs Not Used: Taylor, Pearce, Robson-Kanu, Guthrie. Goals: Kebe 58, Hunt 62.
Newcastle: Harper, Perch, Williamson, Steven Taylor (Tavernier 56), Santon, Ben Arfa, Tiote, Bigirimana (Ferguson 70), Gutierrez, Cisse (Shola Ameobi 69), Ba. Subs Not Used: Elliot, Anita, Obertan, Sammy Ameobi. Booked: Perch, Williamson, Gutierrez. Goals: Ba 58, 83.
Att: 24, 097 Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).