Barclays Premier League
, Dec 17, 2011
Ground: Sports Direct Arena , Kickoff: 15:00 , Att 51,767
In-form Ba preparing to depart Demba Ba admits it will be a huge wrench to leave his Newcastle team-mates behind when he heads off on African Cup of Nations duty.
The 26-year-old striker will join up with the Senegal squad ahead of next month's tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea having confirmed his status as a genuine Barclays Premier League marksman with 11 goals in his last 10 league starts for the Magpies.
That return, which has come on top of the seven he scored in 12 top-flight appearances for West Ham during the second half of the last campaign, has fully justified Alan Pardew's decision to take him to Tyneside during the summer and his absence for the duration of the tournament will leave a huge gap.
Ba is thrilled at the prospect of representing his country against the best Africa has to offer but will leave the north-east in part reluctantly.
He said: "It's going to be difficult, very difficult, because the season is still running and it just feels like you are going and the team is staying.
"It's going to be weird because it is going to be my first African Cup as well. But I just hope I don't go there for nothing.
"For me, for the whole country, for the whole team, we are just excited to be playing in this competition, and we are going to try to come back and make our country proud of us." Asked if he will have one eye on events on Tyneside during his absence, Ba replied: "Not one, two." Ba's goals have been a major factor in Newcastle's impressive start to the season, although his three in the last four games, including a penalty at Manchester United, have helped to secure only a single point with injuries biting hard into Pardew's resources at Norwich last weekend.
His form has taken some by surprise, although he insists not those who know him well.
Ba said: "Maybe a couple of people are surprised - I know some are not because they know me, they know me very well.
"If people are surprised, hopefully I am just going to continue to surprise them." Pardew will make late decisions over Fabricio Coloccini, Mike Williamson and Cheick Tiote as they fight their way back from injury but Dan Gosling is suspended.
Striker Danny Graham will put family ties to one side as he looks to help Swansea make a "massive statement" against his boyhood club Newcastle.
Graham was a "die-hard" Magpies fan in his youth and regularly went to St James' Park, now the Sports Direct Arena, to watch his idol Alan Shearer wear the famous black and white number nine shirt.
The Gateshead-born 26-year-old, who looks set to return to the Swansea starting line-up in place of Leroy Lita, will have around 40 friends and family watching from the stands on Tyneside, most of whom will be cheering on the home side, but he will be looking to ensure that he will be the one smiling at the final whistle.
The former Middlesbrough, Carlisle and Watford forward said: "It is nice to go home and play against the club I supported as a kid but I am going there wanting to win and score if selected and to put one over on my friends and family.
"I was a die-hard fan as a youngster and I used to go every week with my family. Alan Shearer was my idol and I can remember the days when we were beating Barcelona with Faustino Asprilla scoring a hat-trick, but come Saturday that will all go out of the window." Graham grabbed his fifth goal since his #3.5million club record move from Watford as a substitute in last weekend's 2-0 home win over Fulham and he admits a repeat at the home of his boyhood heroes would rank as one of the greatest moments in his career to date.
Newcastle vs Swansea
Last modified 17:12 17/12/11
Magpies frustrated as Ba fires blank Demba Ba was denied a 12th goal of the season by both the woodwork and Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm as Newcastle were held 0-0 to see their hopes of a first win in five Barclays Premier League games dashed.
Senegal international Ba fired against an upright after skipper Fabricio Coloccini had earlier hit the other post and he then saw Vorm react brilliantly to turn away his 42nd-minute volley as the Magpies threatened to run riot before the break.
Winger Jonas Gutierrez also came within a few inches of a superb opener with the visitors desperately trying to repel tide after tide of attacks.
But on an afternoon when the Magpies paid tribute to former midfielder Gary Speed, they could not mark the occasion with a victory in front of a crowd of 51,767.
The Magpies have now taken just two points from the past 15 on offer, although a fixture list which handed them clashes with Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea on consecutive weekends is a major factor in that.
Swansea arrived on Tyneside having collected 15 of their 17 points to date at the Liberty Stadium, and they showed few signs of adding to their paltry return on the road during the opening 45 minutes.
The afternoon had begun with a rousing tribute to former Wales boss Gary Speed with his family and close friends Alan Shearer, Steve Harper and John Carver there to witness it, and it was Newcastle who harnessed the emotion to rip into the visitors.
They dominated throughout and had they left the pitch at half-time four goals to the good, Swans manager Brendan Rodgers, who worked under opposite number Alan Pardew at Reading, could not have had too many complaints.
Coloccini, back to lead the side following injury, came close to opening the scoring after 19 minutes when he dived to head Yohan Cabaye's free-kick against the post.
In-form striker Ba was denied by the other post four minutes later after acrobatically volleying towards goal from a Leon Best knock-down.
Ba was looking the man most likely to break the deadlock, and he saw another effort blocked by Swansea captain Ashley Williams after turning smartly with 26 minutes gone.
As referee Lee Mason grew increasingly impatient with the visitors' rugged response to the deluge, the Welshmen found themselves pinned back deep inside their own half, and it seemed only a matter of time before Newcastle got their noses in front.
Ba must have thought he had given them a 42nd-minute lead when he connected sweetly with a 42nd-minute volley from Gutierrez's header back across goal, only to see Vorm pull off a fine reaction save.
But there would have been little the goalkeeper could have done to keep out Gutierrez's raking right-foot piledriver had it not swerved just wide of the target at the last moment a minute before half-time.
The home side left the pitch to warm applause, but knowing they had to make the pressure tell after the break if they were to end their winless run.
They almost did just that within two minutes of the restart when full-back Danny Simpson floated a cross to the far post, where Ba volleyed over under pressure from defender Ashley Richards with his appeals for a penalty for a push in the back going unanswered.
Kemy Agustien, a half-time replacement for Mark Gower, hacked Coloccini's 54th-minute header away as the Magpies' maintained and unrelenting quest for the opening goal.
Former Magpies winger Wayne Routledge briefly gave the visitors breathing space when he drilled a low cross across the face of Tim Krul's goal, but with little support, the danger was minimal.
Vorm collected Ba's looping 67th-minute header with little difficulty after full-back Davide Santon had made the most of the space he was gifted down the left to send in a cross.
But with the opening goal remaining elusive, the visitors sensed an opportunity and went close 16 minutes from time when Scott Sinclair fired just wide of the far post after managing to get himself one-on-one with Simpson.
|Player rating out of ten||Player name||Substitution||Did they score?||Player's disciplinary record||Rating|
|25||Gabriel Obertan(sub 81)||6/10|
|24||Cheick Tiote(sub 81)||8/10|
|20||Leon Best(sub 70)||6/10|
|10||Hatem Ben Arfa|
|23||Shola Ameobi(sub 70)||5/10|
|28||Sammy Ameobi(sub 81)||6/10|
|29||Haris Vuckic(sub 81)||6/10|
|Player rating out of ten||Player name||Did they score?||Player's disciplinary record||Substitution||Rating|
|27||Mark Gower(sub 45)||6/10|
|11||Scott Sinclair(sub 76)||5/10|
|12||Nathan Dyer(sub 76)||6/10|
|26||Kemy Agustien(sub 45)||6/10|