Monday, August 25, 2008

Shay saves the day

Newcastle Utd 1 - 0 Bolton Wanderers

Two moments of class saw off a spirited Bolton side at St James Park on Saturday. The first, was a penalty save by Shay Given, which kept the scores level; the second was the games only goal, scored by the returning Michael Owen to guarantee our first home match of the season finished with us taking all three points.

With Keegan naming an unchanged team from the draw at Old Trafford last week, it meant home league debuts for Gutierrez, Guthrie and Coloccini. However, for all our spark and fight last week, the first half on Saturday was decidedly flat, with little being created to cause Bolton any problems, whilst the visitors reliance on human battering ram Kevin Davies left Coloccini and Taylor battered but largely untroubled.

Half time saw the departure of Damien Duff with a knee injury, which is expected to keep him out for the next couple of games, Keegan was forced to reshuffle the pack, Geremi coming on to play down the right, with Milner pushed upfront with Martins.

With some clear advice ringing in the players ears, the second half saw both teams seeking to press forward for a goal, and it was from one such attack that Bolton were awarded a penalty. Steven Taylor using his hand to block a cross (and managing to also block the follow up shot with his hand before the whistle was blown). Captain Kevin Nolan stepped up and fired his penalty low towards the corner of the Gallowgate net, only for Shay to produce a fine penalty save, kicking away the rebound to safety to preserve his clean sheet.

With the entire crowd inspired by the save,the enthusiasm flowed down on to the pitch, with Martins almost getting on the end of Geremi's right wing cross. Unfortunately, as well as heading wide, Martins also strained his groin and left the field with a limp. Keegan turning to the recovering Michael Owen to lead the line.

Needless to say, Owen's class told shortly afterwards, as he found space in the six yard box to nod home Geremi's cross to give us the lead, and announce his return to the first team in style. With Coloccini also going close, and Milner planting a decent header over the bar, Newcastle looked as though they might nick a second goal. However, it was Bolton who were pressing towards the end, with Taylor pulling off a good block to preserve our victory in the dying minutes.

Whilst it's far too early to get excited about our place in the top six, it's encouraging to see a second decent performance in a week, a clean sheet, and the return of Owen in goal scoring form. On the minus side, the loss of Martins and Duff will stretch our already thin squad further, and Owen's goal only serves to highlight his value to the club and why our failure to agree a new contract with him could prove an incredibly costly failing going forward.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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