Fenton breaks Newcastle hearts

Blackburn Rovers 2 Newcastle United 1: RACE FOR THE PREMIERSHIP: Ferguson's men ride luck to make telling break as Tynesiders lose momentum at Blackburn; Keegan denied by two late strikes


Blackburn Rovers 2 Newcastle United 1

It was as good an argument as any for Sir John Hall's planned youth development centre on Tyneside. Two goals from Wallsend's Graham Fenton, both set up by his fellow Geordie Alan Shearer, last night inflicted a potentially devastating blow to Newcastle United's championship ambitions.

Having dropped six points off the pace when Manchester United defeated Coventry yesterday afternoon, Newcastle looked to have cut the gap back to three when David Batty scored a rare goal against his old club with 13 minutes to go.

But Fenton levelled with four minutes left, and struck again in the final minute. Coming just five days after Stan Collymore's injury-time winner at Anfield it was the cruellest blow imaginable.

A visibly shaken Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan, attempted to put a brave face on the defeat insisting, "it is definitely not over. If Southampton turn Manchester United over on Saturday, and we beat Villa [on Sunday] it is back as it was tonight. The players are a bit low, but the final chapter has not been written."

But the mask slipped when he added: "I would like us to finish runners- up if we can't win it. This club has not finished runners-up for a long time. Manchester United are red-hot favourites and you have to give credit to them. It is not so much that we have fallen apart, they have had a tremendous run as well. Both those things had to happen."

Few could have predicted the dramatic finale after half an hour. With Blackburn's hustling denying Newcastle space, and Keegan's team selection apparently sacrificing their width, the game failed to flow. Keith Gillespie, the catalyst for Newcastle's weekend victory over Queen's Park Rangers, was back on the bench with Keegan's only concession being the restoration of Peter Beardsley to the centre.

Robert Lee moved to the right wing but, despite playing there for Charlton, seemed no happier and it took a route one free-kick for Tim Flowers to be tested. Taken by John Beresford after 32 minutes it was flicked on by Les Ferdinand and only Flowers' anticipation and bravery prevented Beardsley scoring.

Ripley struck the bar (with a cross) to remind Newcastle that Rovers are still the champions but it was Newcastle in the ascendancy with Faustino Asprilla, Ferdinand, Lee, Beardsley and Philippe Albert all going close.

Rovers' response was to rattle the bar again, this time deliberately, through Tim Sherwood after 65 minutes. Then came two substitutions, one of which was to decide the match.

At the time it looked as if Keegan's replacement of Asprilla with Gillespie would be the crucial one, not Ray Harford's introduction of Fenton. That belief hardened when, within minutes of appearing, Gillespie helped put Newcastle ahead. Receiving a David Ginola pass on the wing he drew two defenders before laying the ball back to Steve Watson. He slipped the ball to Batty who drifted past a defender before shooting low inside Flowers' far post with his left foot.

Batty had scored once in 71 games for Rovers before his recent pounds 4m transfer. It was the perfect riposte to the Rovers' fans who had been booing him.

Blackburn, however, had an even better reply. With four minutes left Shearer turned to shoot inside the box. The ball struck Darren Peacock and looped to the unmarked, and just onside, Fenton. His shot went in off Shaka Hislop's knee.

Newcastle charged up field but, with injury time approaching, a long punt from the Rovers area dropped over Peacock. It came to Shearer and, as Peacock and Beresford closed him down, he released Fenton. Again he looked just onside, again Hislop got a touch to his shot, this time with his hands, but again he could not prevent it going in.

Fenton - like Shearer - is a Newcastle fan. So are his family. "My mam, my sister and her boyfriend are down," he said. In all innocence he added: "I hope they had a good day."

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Coleman, Hendry, Kenna; Ripley (Gallacher, 77), Sherwood, Flitcroft, Wilcox; Shearer, Newell (Fenton, 71). Substitute not used: Croft.

Newcastle United (4-4-4): Hislop; Watson, Peacock, Albert, Beresford; Beardsley, Batty, Lee, Ginola; Asprilla (Gillespie, 73), Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Elliott, Kitson.

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).

Premiership top three

P W D L F A Pts GD

Man Utd 34 22 7 5 63 32 73 +31

Newcastle 33 21 4 8 61 35 67 +26

Liverpool 34 19 8 7 66 31 65 +35

Remaining fixtures

NEWCASTLE: 14 Apr: Aston Villa (h). 17 Apr: Southampton (h). 29 Apr: Leeds Utd (a). 2 May Nottm Forest (a). 5 May: Tottenham (h).

MANCHESTER UNITED: 13 Apr: Southampton (a). 17 Apr: Leeds Utd (h). 28 Apr: Nottingham Forest (h). 5 May: Middlesbrough (a).

LIVERPOOL: 16 Apr: Everton (a). 27 Apr: Middlesbrough (h). 1 May: Arsenal (a). 5 May: Manchester City (a).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit