Sunday, October 30, 2005

Owen Baggies a brace

West Brom 0 - 3 Newcastle

A fine second half performance from Newcastle left the Boing Boing Baggies feeling decidedly flat and ensured it was the Toon fans joyously pogoing away into the night.

Last time we swatted aside Premiership opposition on enemy turf by a 3-0 scoreline, the other half of B&W&RAO was away swanning around the West Coast of America - but this time he was right next to me in the stand, both of us shouting ourselves hoarse, though his many-eyeletted boots meant that unlike myself he was unable to participate in the now-customary "Shoes off if you love the Toon" chant...




So much for the action off the pitch (superb, as it always is at away matches), what happened on it was actually enjoyable too - though the less said about the turgid first half the better. We were the superior side and fashioned a few chances but failed to take them. Ameobi, back from injury, had a shot well blocked for a corner early on, and later in the half good work from Parker set up Owen, but the striker, back having missed two games, miscued badly. He did have the best chance of the half though, darting onto a through-ball only to see his shot well saved by West Brom 'keeper Tomasz Kuszczak and his attempt to hook the rebound into the danger area elude his team-mates.

At half-time there was little to shout about. We had bossed things, West Brom had only rarely threatened and in Parker we had the best player on the park, excellent alongside the quietly effective Emre - but goals hadn't been forthcoming.

But, with the team playing towards our end, it took Owen just 21 seconds of the second half to break the deadlock. N'Zogbia's cross from the left may have been dangerous, but there was still plenty to do. Owen scented blood, though, and nipped in front of the ponderous Darren Moore to flick a superb volley past Kuszczak.

There then followed a succession of chances for the only player in the West Brom side who caused us any problems, Robert Earnshaw. First he completely missed a low driven cross into the six yard box, then he was foiled by a fantastic Given block and later fired narrowly wide when set up by Kanu.

At the other end, however, Owen continued to terrorise the Baggies' back four. Scampering onto a fine through-ball, he saw his toe-poke blocked by Kuszczak, who had raced out of his area. The initial reaction of myself and all those around me was that the 'keeper should have been walking, but television replays confirmed that referee Howard Webb was indeed justified in allowing play to continue, the ball having struck Kuszczak rather fortuitously straight in the chest. There was also nearly a repeat of the Wigan incident when Owen's goalbound header from a corner was nodded off the line by Junichi Inamoto, but unlike Shearer's effort two weeks ago this one didn't creep into the net so there was no sense of injustice.

Shearer, who had been rested after Wednesday's bruising 90 minutes against Grimsby, came on for the largely ineffective Ameobi, while Dyer replaced N'Zogbia, both substitutes going on to have key roles in securing the victory. On 78 minutes Dyer skinned his man (which incredibly he managed several times in his 20 minute cameo) and pulled the ball back for Owen who, having left Curtis Davies in his wake, hit another perfect finish into the top corner from close range.

That knocked the stuffing out of the Baggies, and two minutes later, with Albion fans already streaming out of the ground, the points were safe. Neat interplay in midfield ended with the ball being played out wide to Ramage, whose inviting cross was poked into the net by Shearer, his marker Moore again at fault. Shearer continues to edge ever closer to Jackie Milburn's scoring record - just three to go now...

The scoreline perhaps flattered us a bit, and the confidence and slickness with which we stroked the ball around in the last ten minutes at least partially erased the memory of the poor first half, but there's no doubt we played well enough to thoroughly deserve the win. As for West Brom, they looked desperately poor at times, and Bryan Robson can't have been happy with the way heads sank when the second went in. Not that their problems concern us - we cared about nothing else than the sight of Taylor vigorously pumping his fist in delight on the final whistle.

Add that to the Mackems' hilarious Saturday comedy show and consequent descent to their rightful position in the table, and it was a good weekend all round.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian
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