Ferdinand rediscovers goal touch

Newcastle United 2 (Ferdinand 54, Clark 90) Sheffield Wed 0 Attendance: 36,567
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FOR the time being at least, Les Ferdinand remains Newcastle United's record signing. The old faithful's instinct for goal also remains the main reason why Kevin Keegan's side are still nine points clear of the chaserson their lofty Premiership perch.

Yesterday lunchtime Keegan broke his vow of silence on the problematic pounds 7.5m transfer of Faustino Asprilla to express his fervent hope that the deal will go ahead. The Colombian is expected on Tyneside tomorrow with documentary medical evidence he claims will remove doubts about his knee problem.

Meanwhile, Ferdinand, a comparative snip at pounds 6m from Queen's Park Rangers last summer, continues to earn his keep. He ended a three-match drought yesterday, his longest as a Newcastle player, putting an uninspiring Wednesday side to the sword with the help of a goal in injury-time by Lee Clark.

Ferdinand struck in the 54th minute, heading past Kevin Pressman from close range after Philippe Albert nodded Keith Gillespie's right-wing corner invitingly towards him. The England striker has 24 goals this season, just two short of his highest ever total - and an increasingly promising prospect of adding to the 1986 FA Vase loser's medal which stands as the only domestic prize on his mantelpiece

It was no classic on Newcastle's part, due largely to the negative stance Wednesday adopted, but their once-suffering supporters were no less grateful for the 118th victory of Keegan's reign, which passes the four-year mark tomorrow.

Before Keegan arrived to transform his old club from debt-ridden outfit going nowhere but down, Newcastle could not even afford pounds 300,000 to buy Joe Allon from Chelsea. They are still having trouble on the transfer front - getting rid of the fortune Keegan has at his disposal.

With the Asprilla deal on hold the only new signing in the Newcastle United fold yesterday was the sports car the club paraded in the Daytona 24-hour race in Florida. But Keegan did have an unexpected face in his starting line up, Gillespie returning after injury to fill the vacancy caused by David Ginola's suspension.

The leaders came close to a breakthrough twice in the opening seven minutes, Peter Beardsley drilling a low shot narrowly wide and Steve Howey heading over the bar from five yards.

It was Wednesday, however, who produced the best move of the first half, courtesy of Newcastle old boy Chris Waddle, whose every touch was booed by supporters who still have not forgiven him for joining Tottenham Hotspur in 1985.

The veteran winger showed why Keegan wanted to buy him two weeks ago, delivering a breathtaking cross-field pass from the halfway line which drifted over Albert's head and landed invitingly at the feet of Mark Bright. The Wednesday forward appeared to be baulked by Albert as he prepared to shoot but the referee Paul Danson saw nothing wrong.

Wednesday retreated into a shell thereafter, packing their defence in an attempt to frustrate Newcastle. The home side enjoyed a near-monopoly of possession yet failed to trouble Pressman before the break.

It was not for the lack of creating chances, but Gillespie, Albert and Robert Lee were all wayward with their shooting as Newcastle strove to knock Wednesday into the middle of next week.

David Pleat's side threatened to nick a point on the break as the whistle approached but, after a Beardsley shot struck both posts, Clark curled a shot past Pressman to secure Newcastle's 13th home win in 13 league games at St James' Park.