Football: Beardsley the winner on derby day

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United 3 Middlesbrough 1

At least some things in football never change. Once upon a time Eric McMordie and Wyn Davies were the most cosmopolitan internationals in Tyne- Tees derbies. Yesterday's absorbing collision at St James' Park featured as many South Americans as north-easterners.

It was, however, one of the three locals who proved the difference as Newcastle returned to the top of the Premiership and Bryan Robson departed with the small consolation that his Middlesbrough side at least fared better than his old club had on Tyneside a fortnight ago.

Peter Beardsley scored in his first derby match, for Newcastle against Middlesbrough 12 years ago. Kevin Keegan and Terry McDermott were the other home scorers in that 3-1 win. Yesterday Keegan and McDermott were dancing on the ash-track as their one-time team-mate struck the two goals which doomed Boro to their fourth pointless afternoon in five Premiership games.

Beardsley beat Gary Walsh from the penalty spot six minutes before half- time and then, with 20 minutes to go, slipped his second goal past the man who was Manchester United's goalkeeper in the good old days when blips on the Old Trafford beat meant 4-0 defeats at Barcelona.

Collecting the man-of-the match champagne was fitting reward for the Newcastle captain, who was as influential in his 700th league and cup match as he was in his first. After 10 minutes of his debut for Carlisle against Blackburn, witnessed by 6,000 Cumbrians and a few sheep back in 1979, Beardsley slipped the ball through Howard Kendall's legs.

As the manager of Everton, Kendall paid pounds 1m for the "cheeky little sod" he had warned to "cut out the nutmegging" at Brunton Park that day. And Keegan will be eternally grateful that Kendall allowed him to return to his roots three years ago.

Two months short of his 36th birthday, Beardsley showed yesterday that his sell-by date lies in the future. In a combative encounter that might persuade Sky Sports to bill the re-match at the Riverside in the Coca- Cola Cup on 27 November as a north-east bruiserweight bout, the home captain did not shirk from leading with left-foot or right in the snapping challenges which persisted from first to last whistle.

Neither, for that matter, did Fabrizio Ravanelli, who at various times in the first-half could be found tackling David Ginola in the right-back position, Faustino Asprilla at left-back and Beardsley at the centre of defence.

The tackles were unflinching as the foreign legionnaires fought every inch for local pride. You might have said there was little elbow room, if only that particular part of the anatomy had not been responsible for flooring Emerson and Beardsley as the combatants strove to gain control.

That Newcastle ultimately prevailed in such a contest revealed the kind of resilience they will need, as much as the flair that floored Manchester United and Ferencvaros, to put some silverware on their Tyneside table. They were subdued by Boro for much of the first half as Emerson, of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the hugely promising Phil Stamp, of Berwick Hall, Middlesbrough, held temporary sway in the midfield battle.

But the visitors, crucially, were limited to one clear chance, a miscued Robbie Mustoe shot, before they literally paid the penalty. Beardsley converted it after 39 minutes and, though the Middlesbrough supporters chanted "one nil to the referee," television replays showed that Ginola's dive when challeged by Neil Cox was not, on this occasion, of the Greg Louganis Olympic gold variety.

The Beardsley shuffle had already started to give creative mometum to the Newcastle cause and it preceded the second goal after 70 minutes. Fed by Les Ferdinand on the edge of the Middlesbrough box, Beardsley feinted to his left before sliding the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal.

Thereafter parity prevailed. Robert Lee claimed his first goal in six months with a 74th-minute volley that took a thumping deflection on its way past the helpless Walsh. Mikkel Beck struck the bar in the 81st minute and then, two minutes from time, made amends with a delightfully delicate chip shot over Pavel Srnicek.

It was a great finish by the Dane. But yesterday St James' Park belonged to a Geordie gem.

Goals: Beardsley pen (39) 1-0; Beardsley (69) 2-0; Lee (74) 3- 0; Beck (88) 3-1.

Newcastle United (3-5-2): Srnicek; Peacock, Albert, Elliott; Gillespie (Barton, 83), Lee, Batty, Beardsley, Ginola; Ferdinand, Asprilla. Substitutes not used: Watson, Clark, Beresford, Watson, Hislop (gk).

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Walsh; Cox, Vickers, Whyte, Fleming; Stamp, Juninho, Emerson, Mustoe; Beck, Ravanelli. Substitutes not used: Moore, Whelan, Hignett, Fjortoft, Roberts (gk).

Bookings: Newcastle: Batty, Elliott. Middlesbrough: Cox, Emerson, Vickers.

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).

Man of the match: Beardsley. Attendance: 36,577.