Alan Pardew pleased with how Newcastle United battled against Norwich City

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew praised the battling qualities of his players after they re-ignited their bid for European football with a first win in five league games.

January signing Papiss Cisse clinched the points with a superb 11th-minute strike to edge out Norwich, who more than made a game of it on a day when the Magpies were not at their best as injuries took their toll.

Victory left Newcastle five points clear of seventh-placed Liverpool and just two shy of Chelsea in fifth, although both now have a game in hand after their involvement in the FA Cup yesterday.

Pardew said: 'Owner Mike Ashley said to me after the Sunderland game that it was fantastic theatre and he thoroughly enjoyed it.

'Well, there wasn't much theatre today, but what there was was a real professionalism on the pitch.

'If I had come here as a coach or a manager watching that game, you would have to say both teams put in a full stint and stopped the other playing a little bit.

'The flair players maybe could have offered a little bit more 'je ne sais quoi' today, but my goodness, it was a real battle, and it's always nice to win a battle.'

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A game in which the visitors gave as good as they got for long periods was ultimately settled by Cisse's strike, his third in four home outings for the club. But on another day, he might have claimed the match ball by half-time after twice being denied by goalkeeper John Ruddy, who also produced a fine save to prevent Demba Ba from adding to his 16 goals for the season to date.

However, Norwich, whose neat inter-play left the Magpies chasing shadows at times, created more than enough opportunities to capitalise on the Magpies' profligacy, although could not take any of them.

That was in part due to the efforts of Tim Krul, who pulled off good saves to keep out Anthony Pilkington and Zak Whitbread in quick succession after the break.

Steve Morison might have snatched a point at the death, but mis-hit his shot straight at the Dutchman as Newcastle held out to keep their unlikely charge for Europe on track.

Pardew said: 'It's the last 10 games and we have won the 10th game, you could say, so it makes the task do-able. Perhaps if we had lost today, winning five from nine wouldn't have been do-able because we are not firing on all cylinders.

'I can say that and I know that. When I look at my team, I know we are not balanced, we are not at our best.

'If you can win when you are not at your best, it's a great ingredient to have.''