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

GLENN MOORE

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?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£12 - £15 Hourly Rate: Sheridan Maine: Are you an experienced Accounts Assista...

Sheridan Maine: Financial Accountant

£150 - £190 Daily Rate: Sheridan Maine: One of London's leading water supplier...

Sheridan Maine: Portfolio Accountant

£30,000 - £35,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a Management Accountant with...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor