Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew delighted with performances in absence of star strikers

The Magpies boss can now call on Demba Ba and January signing Papiss Cisse but underlined his pride at how his side had coped without their first-choice forwards
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has praised his side for their performance in the absence of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, who return to Tyneside from Africa Cup of Nations duty this week.

The pair featured for Senegal throughout the tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea but could not prevent them going out at the first hurdle despite initial high hopes.

And. whilst Pardew is certainly glad to have top-scorer Ba and new signing Cisse back, he insisted his players coped more than adequately in their absence.

"That's just going to bolster us for Sunday," the manager told reporters.

"We've done brilliantly. When the guys went away everybody thought it was going to be difficult for us, and we've had games where it hasn't gone well.

"But we've had two big victories, QPR and this one, and both those victories have been about resolve and diligence and grit, and I think we can attack the second half of the season.

"We find ourselves fifth above Arsenal and Liverpool. It's incredible really but we're safe as well, and that's the big barrier.

"We must never get away from that, the type of club we are, get that under your belt first, which we have, so now we have the games we've got left to let our hair down and see what we can do."

Cisse moved to Newcastle from Freiburg a fortnight ago, signing a five-and-a-half-year deal and taking the iconic number nine shirt at Sports Direct Arena.

He is set to make his debut for the Premier League club after scoring 22 goals for the German outfit last season.

Demba Ba is currently the Premier League's second top goalscorer with 15 goals despite only making one appearance so far this year.