By Steven Kenyon
Demba Ba came back to haunt Stoke with a hat-trick for Newcastle on a cold Halloween night at the Britannia Stadium.
Ba, who claimed he was “all ready to sign” before Stoke pulled the plug in January, bagged three goals which lifted unbeaten Newcastle into third place in the Premier League.
The former Hoffenheim man headed in Gabriel Obertan’s cross to put Newcastle ahead and silenced the home fans when he bundled home a close range finish before half time.
Ba then gave away a penalty at the other end with a push on Peter Crouch that Jonathan Walters converted.
However, Ba ended all hope of a comeback five minutes when he scored from the spot after Robert Huth pushed Leon Best.
Victory pushed Newcastle into the lofty heights of third, above Chelsea and just one point behind current champions Manchester United, but it will be the impressive hard-working nature of the display which will please Alan Pardew the most.
After a quiet first ten minutes, Newcastle opened the scoring. A long ball over the top by goalkeeper Tim Krul was flicked on by Best and it was Obertan’s anticipation which left him free down the right hand side, and his perfectly weighted cross was glanced in past Asmir Begovic by the Senegal striker.
Newcastle comfortably dealt with the Stoke retaliation before a Ryan Shawcross slip nearly let Ba in again, but Begovic was out quickly to get to the ball first.
Tony Pulis was then forced to make two defensive changes as Shawcross and Marc Wilson picked up injuries and needed to be replaced.
Krul nearly put the ball in his own net under no pressure whatsoever; as Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini dealt with the notorious Rory Delap throw.
It was defensive stalwart Coloccini, who was involved in creating the second goal. The Argentine lofted a ball into the area that Stoke could not clear, and Best’s mis-hit fell perfectly for Ba to tuck in from four yards.
Stoke came out in the second half with more attacking intent, and Huth headed over the bar from a Matthew Etherington corner.
Walters showed some good touches and direct running as Stoke tried desperately to get into the game and they were given a lifeline by referee Mike Dean, when Ba knocked into the back of Crouch and he awarded a penalty with 15 minutes left.
The award was soft but penalty was not, as Walters nearly burst the net with a powerful effort down the middle from 12 yards.
The home fans got right behind there team but just as they thought they had the chance to grab an equaliser Dean awarded a second penalty after Huth was adjudged to have pushed Best.
Ba stepped up and silenced the boo-boys when he rolled the ball into the bottom left hand corner to confirm his hat-trick and give the away fans a treat of an unlikely third place heading into November.