Football / FA Cup: Johnson fires the fight back

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Rotherham United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Newcastle United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

KEVIN KEEGAN, born 18 miles from Millmoor in Armthorpe, scored four goals on his last visit here 10 seasons ago, but he was happy to leave yesterday with a draw, and the prospect of a replay at St James' Park on 3 February, after his Newcastle side had been held by their enterprising Rotherham hosts in a fourth-round tie played in the very best competitive traditions of the FA Cup.

If yesterday's game was full of passion and action, the rematch is equally redolent of Cup drama. The Merry Millers' finest moment in the history of the world's oldest knock-out competition came on Tyneside 40 years ago when they ended Newcastle's dream of a hat- trick of FA Cups with a 3-1 success.

History is unlikely to repeat itself as Keegan's runaway First Division leaders are an awesome prospect when attacking the Gallowgate and Leazes terraces, but the extra revenue will be welcomed by the Second Division club.

Newcastle's first-half display on a moist pitch was full of confidence and hinted that this tie would be strictly a 90-minute affair. Pavel Srnicek, the Magpies' Czech keeper, was struck on the head by a twopence coin thrown from the home ranks in the Tivoli End, but nothing else seemed to trouble him early on as Liam O'Brien, Lee Clark and Robert Lee took control.

Newcastle forced five corners in as many minutes, Steve Howey having the best chance when he volleyed Clark's inswinger from the left over Billy Mercer's bar. Gavin Peacock, playing wide on the left of midfield in the absence of the injured Kevin Sheedy, maintained Newcastle's attacking momentum with an overhead kick that flashed in front of Mercer. Peacock then set up David Kelly for a header which flew over.

O'Brien and Clark, a pair of skilful grafters who should be a welcome addition to the Premier League if they win promotion, were masterful in midfield, and it was no surprise when they engineered the visitors' goal in the 29th minute. O'Brien laid the ball wide and Clark skipped down the wing before driving the ball low and hard across the edge of the area.

Lee, who has played such an important part in Newcastle's campaigning since joining from Charlton Athletic, caught the ball sweetly with his right foot, the winger's drilled shot flying between Mercer and his right-hand upright.

Seconds before half-time Peacock had the ball in the net but his effort was disallowed as Kelly, who appeared to have stepped off the pitch, was ruled offside. However, Rotherham lifted themselves and, roared on by a capacity crowd, began to put together accurate ground-level moves; they were well worth their equaliser when it came midway through the second half.

David Axcell, the referee from Southend, penalised John Beresford for impeding Ally Pickering on the right, a decision which angered Beresford, who claimed that Pickering had 'just run into me'. Rotherham made him pay. Chris Wilder dummied and Dean Barrick drove the indirect free-kick against Srnicek's right-hand post. The rebound fell kindly for Nigel Johnson, who gleefully forced the ball over the line.

Rotherham's tails were up. Ian Banks, their midfield schemer, caught the eye with a fulminating drive which demanded a startling save from Srnicek, who then acted equally smartly to smother a Barrick drive. 'What's it like to be outclassed?' came the chant from the home fans. But St James' Park will be far more intimidating.

Rotherham United: B Mercer; A Pickering, C Hutchings, I Banks, N Johnson, N Law, D Hazel (C Wilder, 60 min), S Goodwin, T Cunningham, S Goater, D Barrick. Subs not used: J Howard. Manager: P Henson.

Newcastle United: P Srnicek; B Venison, J Beresford, L O'Brien, K Scott, S Howey, R Lee, G Peacock, D Kelly, L Clark, P Bracewell. Subs not used: B Kilcline, K Brock. Manager: K Keegan.

Referee: D Axcell (Southend).

Goals: Lee (0-1, 28 min); Johnson (1-1, 64 min).