Thursday, January 17, 2008

The KK factor

Newcastle Utd 4 - 1 Stoke City

Mere hours after announcing the return of Kevin Keegan as manager, Newcastle produced a performance which appeared to turn the clock back approximately 12 years and blew Stoke away.

Opting for an attacking front six (although, to be honest he had little option given the lack of available midfielders for this game), caretaker boss Nigel Pearson sent a team out which showed real attacking intent. Despite an early Stoke effort, which Given did well to palm away, Newcastle eased into the lead after only 7 minutes when Michael Owen forced the ball home from James Milner's cross. It was Owen's first FA Cup goal for the club, coming a mere 28 months after he joined us.

Uriah Rennie then decided to place his own mark on the game, firstly letting a rash foul on Emre by Stoke captain John Eustace go unpunished, before promptly brandishing the red card to the Turk when he decided to take matters into his own hands (or studs) a few minutes later. The complete lack of consistency from a referee with a penchant for penalising Newcastle should hardly come as a surprise. However, the loss of Emre for Saturday's game with Bolton means that Keegan's first task will be to try and find someone to accompany Charles N'Zogbia in central midfield.

Despite being reduced to ten men, Newcastle continued to attack, and only one minute after the Turk had seen red, Cacapa headed home James Milner's corner to leave Stoke with a mountain to climb.

Having initially suggested they might find a way back into the match (not lease due to some sloppy defending from Jose Enrique) Milner effectively put the match beyond doubt with a low right footed shot from 20 yards. With Damien Duff adding a fourth following a three on one break towards the end it was a good night all round.

In typical Newcastle fashion, there was still time for Stoke to snatch a late consolation goal, as ex-mackem Liam Lawrence cut in from the left to clip a shot past Given into the far corner.

However, it was too little too late. The pre-match excitement around the city was clear for all to see, and Stoke proved sufficiently complicit to allow Keegan's second stint in charge to begin with a win.

Obviously, one win against a Championship side doesn't really mask over the cracks. Keegan will quickly realise that we need bodies in before the close of the transfer window. For the moment though, let's simply savour the excitement which comes with having KK back at the helm, and look forward to what lies ahead.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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