Newcastle United. . .1
KEVIN KEEGAN'S wish to take Cole to Newcastle - Andrew Cole of Bristol City, that is - is a forewarning of his, and the club's, far-reaching ambition. The desire to be a noted national force again, a dream which will be propelled even closer to reality with the arrival of a 25-goal-a-season target man, is almost overpowering on Tyneside.
Newcastle, five wins clear in the First Division, are so handily placed for promotion to the Premier League that they can almost concentrate on the Cup, but there is still a feeling among the Magpies that they have not received the recognition their attacking approach and tight defending deserves.
'We haven't really got the credit we are due,' said John Beresford, who has slotted in so well at left-back that Liverpool must be kicking themselves for not ignoring an adverse medical report on him last summer. 'It's all Premier League this and Premier League that all the time.'
Hence the interest in the FA Cup, where Beresford and his colleagues have an opportunity to meet the elite. They shone at a buoyant Chelsea in the third round of the Coca-Cola Cup before bowing out 2-1 and a win over Rotherham United in the FA Cup fourth-round replay on 3 February at their Tyneside citadel would provide another chance to show the Premier League what is coming their way. Blackburn versus Newcastle; Dalglish versus Keegan - Liverpool's interest in the Cup is not yet dead.
Beresford, whose contributions to Portsmouth's run to the semi-finals last year ensured calls from Graeme Souness and Keegan, stresses the Magpies' Cup nous. 'It's not just me,' he said, 'look at Barry Venison and Paul Bracewell, who've actually been to Wembley.' Not to mention Keegan and his assistant, Terry McDermott.
But Rotherham are not travelling to the North-east to make up the numbers. Forty years ago at the same stage of the Cup they were lower-division underdogs travelling to face a side seeking a hat-trick of FA Cups. It was a classic upset: Newcastle, missing the inspiration of the injured Jackie Milburn, were humiliated 3-1 in a gale before 54,000 disbelieving onlookers at St James' Park.
A repeat in the replay is not too outlandish a thought, given the precision and purpose of Rotherham's play. Pegged back by the vibrant visitors they recovered from Robert Lee's 29th-minute strike to force a deserved draw.
Nigel Johnson, an unsung centre-half who failed to cut out Lee Clark's cross which led to Lee's goal, found his nickname changed from 'Tragic' to 'Magic' Johnson when he knocked in a rebound from Dean Barrick's ferocious 64th-minute free-kick.
The Millers, inspired by the astute Shaun Goodwin, nearly decided a vigorous tie when Ian Banks and Barrick brought flying stops from Pavel Srnicek. The Newcastle keeper had earlier been hit by a two-pence coin, but even that could not sully an exceptional afternoon. Roll on the sequel.
Goals: Lee (28) 1-0; Johnson (64) 1-1.
Rotherham United: Mercer; Pickering, Hutchings, Banks, Johnson, Law, Hazel (Wilder, 60), Goodwin, Cunningham, Goater, Barrick. Substitute not used: Howard.
Newcastle United: Srnicek; Venison, Beresford, O'Brien, Scott, Howey, Lee, Peacock, Kelly, Clark, Bracewell. Substitutes not used: Kilcline, Brock.
Referee: D Axcell (Southend).Reuse content