Monday, February 06, 2006

Roeder to recovery

Newcastle United 2 - 0 Portsmouth

One game in charge, and Glen Roeder has already managed to get more out of his squad of players than Graeme Souness managed in the last six months. On Saturday, we played with purpose, passion and a collective will not previously seen this year.

Admittedly, one swallow doesn't make a summer, and three points against a woeful Portsmouth side should have been a foregone conclusion. However, it was particularly heartening to witness the collective spirit within the team, and a desire to work together for the collective good.

Reverting to the tried and trusted 4-4-2, Roeder's men began the match with purpose, and but for heroics by Dean Kiely in the Pompey goal we'd have been out of sight by half time. As it was, his excellent work and some profligacy from Shola (who incidentally enjoyed a strong game) kept the visitors in the match.

Then four minutes before the interval we made the breakthrough. Good interplay between Shola and Nobby down the right eventually saw Solano cross the ball, and Shearer connected with a strong header. However it wasn't to be enough to break Milburn's record, as Kiely once again saved smartly with his feet. However, the ball fell kindly for N'Zogbia, whose clever side foot shot found the corner of the net, when a less cool headed player might have blazed it over the bar.

The second half saw our performance begin to tale off slightly, but despite lacking the storming performance of the first it contained the game's (and in all probability the season's) defining moment.

A long clearance from Given was flicked on by Shearer. Ameobi, with his back to goal was able to bring the ball sufficiently under control to back heel it in to the path of the onrushing number 9. Free of the last man, he calmly slotted the ball under the advancing keeper, and rippled the net for the 201st time in his Newcastle career. In doing so, he broke Jackie Milburn's record and confirmed his position as the greatest goal scorer to ever play for the club, before celebrating wildly in the Strawberry corner of the ground.

With team mates flocking to him, it was a real pleasure to see the delight, and team spirit which embodied the celebration, with Shola launching himself over his delighted Captain in the process.

Two nil up, and we should have been cruising. Happily, we were, although Given's rash decision to race from his box to try and clear a ball he was never going to reach left us looking slightly shaken for a moment. Thankfully, Bramble and Boumsong both got back to cover the keeper, and Titus eventually cleared the ball to safety.

The stage was finally set to welcome Bowyer and Dyer back from injuries, and with Emre and Parker pulling the strings in midfield the future suddenly looks a lot brighter.

Whilst it must be born in mind that the visitors were woeful, we can certainly head to Villa park on Saturday with renewed optimism. The injury list is now down to four, Villa's best player this season isn't allowed to play, and with players like Dyer and Emre returning to fitness we're starting to create chances.

Obviously it wouldn't be Newcastle without something going slightly awry, and Albert Luque's impression of Sol Campbell when he learnt he hadn't even made the bench on Saturday took the gloss off matters. However, Roeder's comments were based along reconciliation and rehabilitation rather than recrimination and retribution. Let's hope that he's as good as his word, and can coax the best out of the Spaniard. If Saturday's resurgence is anything to go by, he's got a pretty good chance.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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