Monday, January 09, 2006

The boy (double) ton good

Newcastle 1 - 0 Mansfield

One thing and one thing only will be remembered about Saturday's match - and it won't be our collective performance, once again shoddy and this against a side struggling in a league three tiers below our own.

No, on another turgid afternoon of football the only bright spark was provided, as so often is the case, by skipper Alan Shearer as he seized upon a clever backheel from Luque to drive the ball inside Kevin Pressman's right-hand post. It was a goal which not only crushed the hopes of a dynamic and courageous Mansfield side but also equalled Jackie Milburn's half-century-old record of 200 goals for the club. (Shearer's haul, incidentally, includes five past Pressman from one glorious afternoon against Sheffield Wednesday in 1999 that marked Sir Bobby's first game in charge.)

By the time Shearer struck in the 80th minute, we had been gradually building a head of steam, and the Stags eventually buckled under the pressure. The first half, though, had been theirs, teenage midfielder Giles Coke and former Newcastle trainee Adam Rundle comfortably outshining their more illustrious opponents. The yellow peril was real and ever-present, both Rundle and strike partner Allan Russell forcing Given into making decent stops, before the Irishman's belatedly clicked into first gear, Carr and Shearer going close.

Once the ball had hit the back of the net, Shearer had wheeled away hand aloft moving at a speed to which he is unaccustomed, and the sighs of relief had gone up all round the ground, he still had ten minutes in which to find the record-breaking goal. It didn't come, though, and if it had it would have been cruel on Mansfield and ridiculously flattering to us. Perhaps Saturday's game at Fulham will see Shearer surpass his idol, but he'll need to be more involved in proceedings than he was against the Stags.

Monday lunchtime's 4th Round draw pitched us against Cheltenham or Chester, the League Two sides having drawn 2-2 on Saturday. Both will go into the replay a week on Tuesday fully aware of the financial impact a meeting with us could have, as well as no doubt being intent upon getting the opportunity to upset a Premiership side, probably on TV. Of course, on paper we should run out comfortable winners whoever we face - but, as the old adage goes, football is played on grass not paper, or rather mud in the FA Cup. This is just the sort of tie in which our complacency (as shown up against Mansfield) and lack of professionalism could be punished.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

BBC Links: Shearer's reaction to achieving the feat, The stats behind Shearer's record, Shearer's Toon career in pictures, Former Toon colleague and friend Robert Lee on Shearer


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