FOOTBALL: Dismal Newcastle go from Dyer to worse

Newcastle United 1 Dyer 52 Charlton Athletic 1 Rommedahl 53 Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 51,114
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The Independent Online
As they prepare to fly out for their mid-winter break in the United Arab Emirates, the players of Newcastle United might care to peruse the traffic safety notice on the web-site of their hosts, the Dubai Police Academy. In addition to advising visitors to "use the horn only when necessary", a wise instruction to Premiership players on such trips, there is a warning to "be alert and expect others to make mistakes".

Even as Kieron Dyer shot Newcastle into the lead at St James' Park yesterday, seven minutes into the second half, he might have expected a defensive lapse to undermine his effort. Less than a minute later, a lack of alertness, and basic control, on the part of Andy O'Brien gave Dennis Rommedahl the opportunity to draw Charlton level from their first chance of the afternoon.

It was the 43rd goal conceded in Newcastle's ever-faltering Premiership campaign. By the final whistle, Graeme Souness's Magpies, painfully wingless and all in a flap at the back, were hanging on desperately for a point. It came as no surprise that they were given the bird.

It was on Newcastle's visit to the Valley in October, of course, that Craig Bellamy opened a rift between himself and Souness - with the stream of expletives that flowed from his mouth when he was asked to make way for Shola Ameobi. Yesterday, Ameobi was lining up alongside Shearer, looking to claim a lasting place in the Newcastle forward line.

It is four years now since Ameobi broke into the first team, yet the young man Bobby Robson described as "a lanky Bambi" continues to be the same beguiling enigma - blessed at times with the assured touch of a Dennis Bergkamp and at others with the more prickly control of a Titus Bramble. Rather predictably, however, it was the surefootedness of Shearer that provided the promise of an early Newcastle breakthrough yesterday.

Indeed, the 23-year-old Ameobi was still finding his feet when his 34- year-old strike partner flashed in the first shot of the afternoon.

Shearer was quick to fasten on to Amdy Faye's prompting ball up the right, turning smartly and dispatching a low drive that almost caught Dean Kiely napping at his near post. Newcastle's captain also tested Kiely with a header from a Faye cross and swept a shot across the face of the Charlton goal but tantalisingly out of Ameobi's reach.

With Faye dictating much of the play from his midfield anchor role, it was such one-way traffic that even O'Brien was encouraged to step forward. From fully 40 yards, the central defender's right-foot effort was heading for the target until Kiely stopped it, pushing the ball up and on to his crossbar.

It was a close shave for Charlton, and Dyer, Lee Bowyer and Bramble also spurned chances as the half-hour mark passed with Shay Given still a spectator in the home goal.

Danny Murphy did manage to get a sight of the Irishman's net but the Liverpudlian was so startled he screwed his drive some five yards wide from the edge of the Newcastle penalty area. By the interval, Newcastle were rapidly running out of attacking steam but Charlton were not so much Athletic as geriatric.

It was a different story in the second half, although it took Dyer's goal and O'Brien's blunder to spark the visitors to attacking life. The breakthrough, after 52 minutes, stemmed from an upfield punt by Bramble, headed on by Shearer for Dyer to chest down and beat Kiely with a crisply executed half-volley.

The Toon Army were still celebrating when O'Brien failed to control a ball on the right edge of the Newcastle penalty area, shunting it to Rommedahl, who curled a right-foot drive around Given and in off the far post.

It could have been worse for Newcastle, but Paul Konchesky, Rommedahl (twice), Matt Holland and Luke Young wasted a stream of chances as the home guard went missing.

"Graeme Souness is getting the sack," the Charlton fans chanted. Worryingly for the Newcastle manager, it was a theme some of the Toon Army picked up before the predictable boos at full-time.