Beardsley still learning new tricks

Newcastle United 2 Queen's Park Rangers 1
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Doing your own thing might be considered a prerequisite of greatness, but in Peter Beardsley's case, high achievement and a willingness to oblige co-exist in extraordinary harmony. The two late goals with which he dramatically swung fortunes Newcastle's way at St James' Park on Saturday may yet to turn out to be crucial in deciding the destiny of this year's Premiership. They were also a triumphant reward for a player who knows that the team's cause always comes first.

It is doubtful whether any player has ever meant more to his managers than Beardsley has to the men lucky enough to have had him at their disposal during a professional career that is nearing the end of its 17th season. Even at 35, you could never call Beardsley an old dog. Not only does he continue to play with the exuberance of someone half his age, but new tricks are far from beyond him, even if they are ones he would prefer not to have to learn.

That is the position Beardsley has been put in at Newcastle by the changes Kevin Keegan has brought about in the last two months - which means chiefly the arrival of Faustino Asprilla - and after his match-winning performance, the manager made a point of expressing his gratitude and admiration.

"Peter's the one who's been compromised most by the new additions," Keegan said. "There was logic in that. As the most experienced player and the captain I felt I could ask him to sacrifice some of what he's good at to accommodate the other players. It's as simple as that. I'm sure if you talked to Peter he'd say he's not happy playing out there. But he'll do it for you and he'll do it to the best of his ability."

With Asprilla now established as the man playing off Les Ferdinand, Beardsley has been forced into a deeper role. But after a first half against Queen's Park Rangers in which Newcastle's impact had been only sporadic, Keegan decided that Beardsley had been playing too deep. "Peter Beardsley 40 yards outside the box is just where the opposition want him," he said. "Peter Beardsley on the edge of the box is just where they don't want him."

In the end Beardsley did the damage from much closer even than that, pouncing on the edge of the six-yard box after Ferdinand had won the ball off the dawdling Andrew Impey, and then lashing in his second from similar distance after a typically twinkling run had taken him past two defenders on the left.

The effect those goals had on the Geordie masses was transforming. The anguish of what had happened at Liverpool the previous Wednesday was giving way to despair as a post-Anfield jadedness took its toll on the players. But having mastered the art of playing brilliantly and losing, Newcastle now learnt the more important lesson of playing badly and winning, something Keegan had been hoping for.

It was a bitter result for QPR and their player-manager, Ray Wilkins, whose decision to involve himself from the start for only the fifth time this season was more than vindicated with a performance of calm authority. With Trevor Sinclair constantly stretching Newcastle down the right, QPR had chances to take the lead before the 54th-minute strike with which Ian Holloway rounded off a swift counter-attack.

David Ginola having just been booked for haughtily pointing out to the referee that a QPR wall was only six yards rather than 10 yards back, Newcastle were now feeling that the world really did have it in for them. Perhaps only Beardsley could have had the character to rise above the pessimism.

Goals: Holloway (0-1) 54; Beardsley (1-1) 78; Beardsley (2-1) 82.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Hislop; Watson, Peacock, Albert, Beresford; Beardsley, Lee (Gillespie, 68), Batty, Ginola; Ferdinand, Asprilla. Substitutes not used: Elliott, Clark.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Sommer; Bardsley, McDonald, Yates, Brevett; Sinclair, Wilkins, Holloway, Impey; Dichio (Hateley, 76), Gallen. Substitutes not used: Ready, Brazier.

Booking: Newcastle: Ginola.

Referee: P Danson (Leicester).

Man of the match: Beardsley.

Attendance: 36,583.