Graham Poll found himself back in the headlines again after disallowing a Georgios Samaras goal that would have given Manchester City a deserved win over Newcastle United, the game finishing 0-0 at Eastlands.

The World Cup official, already in the spotlight following the high-profile dismissals of John Terry and James McFadden in the past seven days, cut City's celebrations short when he spotted Bernardo Corradi pulling Stephen Carr inside the Magpies box midway through the second half.

It appeared a debatable call and proved to be crucial given Samaras turned the ball home after Richard Dunne had nodded Joey Barton's corner goalwards and left City cursing more bad luck.

The hosts, who are still unbeaten and yet to concede a goal at home, should have wrapped up the points anyway but Barton and Corradi wasted good chances.

However, they might also be thankful a late Newcastle rally did not see the Magpies fly off with the points as Kieron Dyer and Antoine Sibierski both went close before James Milner was left waiting in vain for a pass in the final second when completely unmarked in the middle of the City area.

The result does little to ease the pressure on Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder, whose side have now gone eight games without a win and look set for a long winter battle to pull themselves clear of trouble.

As neither side could claim to have set the world alight in any sense this season, a spectacular contest was not expected. Nevertheless, the sheer awfulness of the opening period still came as a shock.

It did not take much but undoubtedly, City were the better side.

In Barton they had virtually the only player on the pitch capable of lifting himself above mediocre.

Once again overlooked for an England call, Barton set about getting the better of Scott Parker, who has been handed a place in Steve McClaren's massive squad, and largely succeeded.

The only disappointment for the City man was he did not get his name on the scoresheet.

Barton did force one good save out of Harper when he nicked the ball past Parker then let fly with a volley that was heading in until the Magpies keeper turned it away.

However, it was the chance that came his way even earlier in the contest Barton probably had more cause to regret.
Hatem Trabelsi cushioned an excellent header into his path after City keeper Nicky Weaver had launched a huge punt forward, Barton controlled with his chest, drove into the box but then stroked a shot beyond the far post when far better could have been expected.

Roeder had opted to give Shola Ameobi one more opportunity before he heads for hip surgery but the forward barely broke out of a walk and on the one occasion he did find himself one-on-one with Sylvain Distin he meekly surrendered possession to the former Newcastle defender.

Newcastle's only opportunity of note fell to young defender Peter Ramage, who hooked a volley over after new England squad man Micah Richards' clearing header had bounced into his path.

The second period continued in the same manner as the first, with Harper again the hero when Barton split the Newcastle offside trap and found Paul Dickov inside the Magpies box, only for the Scotland international to see his side-footed effort turned away.

Dickov is yet to find the net in his second spell with the Blues but must have thought his drought was over as he sent a side-footed shot towards the far corner, only for Harper to make a fine low stop.

Like Dickov, Bernardo Corradi is goalless this season and he even better chance to score with his first touch after replacing Reyna on the hour mark.

Inexplicably left completely unmarked deep inside the Newcastle box, Corradi met Barton's free-kick with a firm diving header which disappointingly failed to test Harper.

It was the start of a lively period for the Italian, who nodded just wide before Harper got in the way of his close-range flick when Vassell had crossed.

Corradi's next involvement dragged Poll into the spotlight again. Given the furore he has created in the past week, no-one could accuse Poll of a lack of bravery as he ruled out Samaras' header.

It proved to be a major decision for as much as City controlled the contest never really looked like scoring again, while not even the arrival of Dyer could get the Magpies airborne.