Captain holds court for Keegan

Newcastle United 3 Beardsley 17(pen), Ferdinand 38, 59 Manchester City 1 Creaney 81 Attendance: 35,501
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The Independent Online
JUDGEMENT on Newcastle United's Premiership title chances will have to be deferred until more testing days than Manchester City were able to provide yesterday, and probably away from the almost impregnable court of St James'. Instead, it was a day just to delight in a display of vibrant football and the endearing talents of Peter Beardsley while they last.

The muscular Les Ferdinand may have outscored Beardsley two to one but it was the darting, diminutive figure who was the game's dominant force. Top v bottom? He took Newcastle into a different league to City, which is where the losers will be playing next season if this fifth successive defeat is any guide. Three? But for Eike Immel in the City goal, it would have been nearer 33. Gerry Creaney's late goal on his debut flattered City.

The mitigation offered by their manager, Alan Ball, was the sending- off of their right-back, Richard Edghill, after 25 minutes, at which point they trailed only 1-0. "End of game as a competition," he said. It was not the most brutal of tackles, from behind on David Ginola, but Edghill should have had in mind his earlier booking for fouling Keith Gillespie, when conceding the penalty which opened the scoring.

It was little wonder that Newcastle were so keen to get Beardsley back after he had missed their only defeat of the season, at Southampton, last week. The home captain was soon in the driving seat, taking Newcastle from nought to 60 in seconds.

First, from Gillespie's cut back, he forced Immel into a good save in the first minute. Then, from Beardsley's corner, Lee Clark's volley was again well saved by the goalkeeper, who also distinguished himself by keeping out shots from John Beresford, neatly slipped in by Ginola, and Beardsley again. All this was in a breathtaking first 10 minutes. Gott in Immel, as they say in Germany.

Once Beardsley had secured the lead from the penalty spot and Edghill been sent off, City were even more overwhelmed by Newcastle's fluency. Often the game resembled basketball, with the whole City team retreating to defend and the home side passing the ball around to await the opening. Plenty presented themselves and Immel could not go on plugging them.

City's plight worsened after 38 minutes when Newcastle doubled their lead. Beardsley began the move, Gillespie continued it, Warren Barton crossed, Robert Lee dived to head back across goal and Ferdinand touched home. So swift, so simple, so smooth.

The third was also worth waiting for. Gillespie fed Ginola, now on the right, and his cross curved away from Immel and on to Ferdinand's brow, which powered it into the net. Pick that out, as they say in England.

Thereafter the home manager, Kevin Keegan, sent on his band of substitutes and Beardsley departed to a standing ovation from what seemed like 36,000 replica shirts. Creaney took his goal well, heading home Nicky Summerbee's cross, but Newcastle were shocked only by the rarity of the attack.

Before the match, Keegan and Ginola sprayed champagne - their rewards as manager and player of the first month of the season - into the crowd. More should follow, but it will be later months, away to better opposition, that really count.