Ferdinand's finishing fires Tynesiders

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The Independent Online


Bolton Wanderers 1 Newcastle United 3

Les Ferdinand, the most expensive of Newcastle's bank- straining pounds 14m purchases this summer, ensured that his new club maintained their 100 per cent record in this fledgling season with two goals last night.

The England striker, who cost pounds 6m when he left Queen's Park Rangers, took his tally to three goals in his two matches since and if the huge fee is worrying him he is hiding it wonderfully well. His first, a powerful header, was impressive enough but his second, a mazy run and fierce shot was even better. In addition he also hit the bar.

The result means Newcastle have matched Leeds in winning both their opening matches and there was much in their play last night to suggest that the dreams on Tyneside might have a stronger currency than those being peddled this time last year.

For newly promoted Bolton it was another harsh lesson of life in the Premiership. Over the 90 minutes they fought ferociously and in front of a raucous crowd they played with the same passion they had displayed during their cup runs of recent years.

But when it came to the refinements they were lacking and, with no points, a troubled winter seems to lie ahead.

"It took 75 minutes for us to win the battle," Kevin Keegan, the Newcastle manager, said: "and it required a bit of magic from a couple of players to do it. That's the beauty of this team, that magic can come from any one of five sources."

This was a match between favourites - Bolton to go down and Newcastle to win the championship - and the only time bookmakers odds looked askew was when Bolton equalised through Gudni Bergsson four minutes after half- time. By the finish, the gulf between the sides looked substantial.

Even so, Bolton began the brighter. After five minutes Owen Coyle slid in to meet Jimmy Phillips' cross from the left and four minutes later Shaka Hislop, in the Newcastle goal, had to dive to his left to tip a stinging drive from Jason McAteer around the post.

By this point hardly anything had been seen of the much vaunted Newcastle attack but it exploded into the match with a goal of thrilling pace and precision. David Ginola dashed down the left in the 17th minute and then crossed towards the far post where Ferdinand lurked between Alan Stubbs and Bergsson. The England striker jumped, appeared to hover, and then headed firmly into the bottom corner.

"It wasn't even a half chance," Keegan said, "unless you have someone like Les Ferdinand at the end of it. Not only did he rise above two defenders but he stayed there and stuck it in. A wonderful goal."

After 27 minutes it could have been 2-0 as Keith Gillespie embarked on a twisting run that pushed him beyond the Bolton rearguard until he tumbled under the challenge of Chris Fairclough. Newcastle believed they had won a penalty and when the referee waved play on Ferdinand was so furious he chased after Mr Lodge and was booked for his pains.

Within four minutes of the restart Bolton were level. McAteer had a left- foot shot saved by Hislop but, from the resulting corner, Mark Patterson's cross was headed in from close range by Bergsson. Parity was destroyed in the 76th minute when Gillespie, a constant thorn in Bolton's left side, crossed to the unmarked Robert Lee who headed in from five yards.

The best was yet to come, however. Ferdinand received the ball 40 yards out seven minutes from time and swept past two defenders before beating Keith Branagan with a shot to the far post.

Bolton Wanderers (5-3-2): Branagan; Green, Bergsson, Stubbs, Fairclough (Lee, 77), Phillips; Patterson, McAteer, Thompson (Sneekes, 73); Coyle, De Freitas. Substitutes not used: Lee, Davison (gk).

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Hislop; Barton, Peacock, Howey, Beresford; Gillespie, Lee, Clark, Ginola; Ferdinand, Beardsley. Substitutes not used: Fox, Watson, Elliott.

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Results, page 23