Sunday, April 20, 2008

Safe and immensely satisfying

Newcastle Utd 2 - 0 Roy Keane's Unwashed XI

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, Newcastle are safe, and the Great Unwashed have been sent back from whence they came having been soundly beaten at St James's Park this afternoon.

Two goals from Michael Owen, to make it six goals in six games for the rejuvenated Newcastle captain, was enough to take us past a visiting team who were second best across the pitch, and offered little to suggest they could ever find a way back after Owen's early goal.

That goal came following an exchange of passes between Geremi and ASBO before the Cameroonian swung a high ball in from the right for Owen to nip past his marker and head home from the edge of the box.

With an early lead established, we settled well into a decent rhythm with the whole team working hard to ensure Roy Keane's bunch were never able to settle. Nicky Butt was outstanding in the middle, stifling every move the mackems tried to start and ably supported in midfield, and the defence coped well with the physical threat of Kenwyne Jones (not least because even when he won a header there was nobody near enough to worry us). Up front the pace of Martins, the positional sense of Owen and the strength of Viduka were all causing problems.

A second goal duly arrived following a brilliant one-two between Owen and Viduka, who back heeled the ball back to Owen whose touch was was blocked by the hand of Danny Higginbotham. From the resultant penalty Owen's powerful shot was half blocked by Craig Gordon, but the ball squirmed under the keeper and into the Gallowgate net just on the stroke of half time.

No doubt invigorated by their manager's words at half time, the Unwashed began the second half better and started dominating the middle of the park. However, whatever they tried was snuffed out and with the exception of one powerful Jones header which was brilliantly saved by Harper. At the other end, Martins had a good chance saved by Gordan, and despite some strong running from Habib Beye who continued to get forward and offer a regular outlet down the right we didn't create enough to score the third which would have put the game beyond doubt. However, Owen's two goals proved more than enough to condemn the Unwashed to defeat.

Perhaps tellingly, the Mackems picked up five yellow cards during the game, as they unsuccessfully sought to stamp their authority on a game which continually saw them chasing shadows. This won't be the season which sees them drop out of the Premier League (again) but on this showing they'll need to go up several leaps in class if derbies are to be anything more than occasional fixtures in our calendar.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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