Football: Ferguson steps up to calm nerves

St James' Park Newcastle United 3 FC Zurich 1 Newcastle win 5- 2 on aggregate
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A FUNNY thing happened here last night. For the first time in 49 weeks Duncan Ferguson scored a goal for Newcastle United.

The 58th-minute shot that put Bobby Robson's team ahead on the night and safely en route to the third round of the Uefa Cup was his first goal since the brace he bagged on his debut against Wimbledon on 28 November last year.

Three goals in three weeks short of a year does not exactly represent value for the pounds 8m Ruud Gullit invested in the first signing of his unhappy managerial stint on Tyneside. Neither does just one full match in striking tandem with Alan Shearer, which Ferguson managed against Leeds last Boxing Day and which, with his 82nd minute substitution, he failed to repeat last night.

Shearer made his mark before kick-off, putting the book in, as it were, in the captain's corner column in the match programme. "I see I have been used again to help sell somebody's book," he wrote, in a pointed reference to Andy Cole's autobiography. "Glad to have been of assistance, Andy."

It was Ferguson, who was more prominent in the opening stages, and twice in the first ten minutes the overlapping Warren Barton duly found the head of the towering Scotsman.

However, Newcastle's aggregate lead was to disappear in the 16th minute. The Georgian Gocha Jamarauli, breaking on the left, caught the home guard playing defensive statues and Shaun Bartlett got the deftest of touches as his low angled cross went into the bottom corner.

It took a flash of Shearer inspiration to put Newcastle back on track. Marco Pascolo managed to push the England captain's curling 20-yard free- kick up on to his crossbar but Silvio Maric was on hand when the ball dropped on the line and even the hapless Croatian could not have missed from point-black range.

There was more indefensible defending by the home side before Newcastle's nerves were finally settled with two goals in as many minutes around the hour mark.

The first came in the 58th minute, Pascolo only partially smothering a Nolberto Solano shot from the right edge of the area and Ferguson applying the finishing touch with an angled shot at the far post.

Then, from Solano's left-wing corner, Gary Speed stooped on the six-yard line to head Newcastle's third.

Newcastle United (4-3-1-2): Harper; Barton, Marcelino, Dabizas, Domi; Solano, Lee (McClen, 82), Speed; Maric (Glass, 86); Shearer, Ferguson (Robinson, 82). Substitutes not used: Karelse (gk), Charvet, Hughes, Pistone.

FC Zurich (4-4-2): Pascolo; Gianini (Castillo, 72) Stocklasa, Djordjevic, Quentin; Sant'Anna, Kebe (Frick, h-t), Eydelie, Kavelashvili; Bartlett (Macfarlane, ht), Jamarauli. Substitutes not used: Trombini (gk), Andreoli, Douglas, Chassot.

Referee: D Messina (Italy).