The Tyneside millionaires appeared to be heading for a shattering defeat when they left a partisan Roker Park at half time in last night's Tyne Wear derby. Having gone behind to a 19th-minute penalty from Martin Scott, Newcastle had been all but overrun by a committed and talented Sunderland side.
With a siege mentality already developing at the club questions were being asked, locally and nationally, about their character. Even SuperMac had tipped Sunderland to win. Within 17 minutes of the second half they had answered those questions, Peter Beardsley and Les Ferdinand gaining them a victory which, though all about local pride, could have national ramifications.
"Our season started here tonight," Kevin Keegan, the manager, said. "We showed an awful lot of character which has been questioned. We answered those critics; we made them eat their words. I am delighted."
The ill-judged ban on away fans meant there was a curious quiet when Newcastle attacked. Or a chorus of boos. When Sunderland were going forward this ancient barn of a ground - still with standing on all four sides - roared as if it were again filled with 68,000 which once watched this fixture rather than a third as many.
"We didn't have a friend in the ground," Keegan said. "We felt against the world; I relished it."
It took a long time for his team to do the same. Sunderland, charged by the electrifying mood, began at a frantic pace and Newcastle struggled to cope. Paul Bracewell volleyed just over and Robbie Elliott was booked for bringing down Steve Agnew.
Soon after, Agnew again ran at the unprotected Elliott (there was no sign of David Ginola helping out). The full-back was turned square and he stuck out a foot, Agnew receiving just enough contact to earn a penalty. Scott scored with an ease which belied the occasion.
Sunderland were compact and organised but also possessed flair and invention in attack. With Michael Gray having the run of Roker, they would have scored again had Pavel Srnicek not pushed Stewart's overhead kick on to the post and then parried Gray's close-range shot. Ginola, harshly treated by defenders and spectators alike in the first half, began Newcastle's revival with two crosses. The second led to a correctly disallowed goal but it lifted the visitors. Seven minutes into the half, Ferdinand drifted past two players on the right and clipped a neat cross to Beardsley. The captain fully justified his recall with a well-directed header inside the far post.
Inevitably those card-carrying members of the Toon Army who had sneaked in could not contain their joy, and a cluster of scuffles broke out. They were quickly controlled by the police but Newcastle's players proved more difficult to contain.
Ten minutes after drawing level they were ahead. Richard Ord conceded a corner under pressure from Alan Shearer, Ginola took it and Ferdinand rolled back the months to head home his first goal of the season.
Sunderland desperately sought an equaliser but, for once, Newcastle's defence held out.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Coton; Kubicki, Melville, Ord, Scott; Agnew (Rae, 76), Bracewell, Ball, Gray; Stewart (Russell, 83), Quinn. Substitutes not used: Hall, Bridges, Perez (gk).
Newcastle (4-4-2): Srnicek; Watson, Howey, Peacock, Elliott; Lee, Beardsley, Batty, Ginola; Ferdinand (Clark,76), Shearer. Substitutes not used: Asprilla, Albert, Gillespie, Hislop (gk).
Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).Reuse content