Football: Dalglish plays safe and forsakes glory

West Ham United 0 Newcastle United 0
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The Independent Online
At least the Newcastle of Kevin Keegan would have gone down in a blaze of glory. The new Kenny Dalglish version offered no such excitement at Upton Park last night, writes Glenn Moore.

Needing a win to maintain their hopes of their first championship since 1927, they played six defenders and two holding midfielders and concentrated on stopping West Ham while hoping Alan Shearer would manage his customary trick of scoring something out of nothing. Even when, after 70 minutes, they had barely managed a shot, Dalglish's solution was to bring off one attacker, Faustino Asprilla in order to introduce another, Keith Gillespie.

But for a brilliant fingertip save by Ludek Miklosko from a Shearer header, this miserly approach might have worked. West Ham fans were grateful it did not. Their point, gained with more ambition but little more penetration, ought to keep them in the Premiership.

Dalglish could point out that he was without Rob Lee, Les Ferdinand and David Ginola, all of whom were injured, but there was nothing wrong with Peter Beardsley, who remained on the bench all night, unless he has a problem with a cold shoulder.

In his defence, Dalglish could also point to Newcastle's recent record: three successive wins, unbeaten in seven Premiership games since the Anfield epic in March.

With both sides in confident mood, the early football was not as mistake- ridden as games of this sort usually are. There was tension, however, and it manifested itself in several tough challenges, with Paul Kitson gaining an early caution for a late tackle on Philippe Albert.

Newcastle's desire to press on was apparent with Lee Clark bringing Ludek Miklosko to his knees with a 20-yard shot after just two minutes. John Hartson responded from similar range but fired too close to Pavel Srnicek.

With 22 minutes gone, West Ham were offered the first clear chance when Newcastle failed to clear and Hartson seized on the loose ball. He burst past the last defender but was delayed long enough by, first, Srnicek and then Albert for Beresford to hack the ball away.

As the game grew in passion the referee, Graham Poll, booked Hugo Porfirio, Darren Peacock and Shearer, whose late tackle forced John Moncur off on a stretcher.

The constant interruptions did little to help the flow of a game which had gradually become scrappy and frantic. Newcastle, with all their defenders in their side, failed to manage a shot for the last 43 minutes of the half. As a result, Kitson tested Srnicek and Hartson headed over, but clear chances were rare for the home side.

West Ham almost created one five minutes after the interval when Kitson chipped cleverly over Newcastle's advancing defence but Srnicek reacted quickly to clear as Hartson sought to collect the pass.

The incident encouraged Newcastle to show more attacking enthusiasm and Miklosko did well to block a powerful volley from Shearer on the hour.

As the minutes ticked away both sides were drawn forward in search of the win they craved. Newcastle thought they had achieved it when Shearer rose to Gillespie's corner with 16 minutes left only for Miklosko to bravely flicked his header over the bar. Clark also went close for Newcastle but Richard Hall and Hartson were nearer to scoring at the other end.

In the end both teams had to settle for one point, which pleased Manchester United most of all.

West Ham United (3-5-2): Miklosko; Ferdinand, Hall, Bilic; Potts, Lomas, Porfirio (Hughes, 81), Moncur (Bishop, 42), Lazaridis; Kitson, Hartson. Substitutes not used: Rieper, Dowie, Sealey (gk).

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Srnicek; Watson, Peacock, Albert, Beresford; Barton, Clark, Batty, Elliott; Shearer, Asprilla (Gillespie, 72). Substitutes not used: Beardsley, Howey, Hamilton, Hislop (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

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