Football: Grazioli keeps Stevenage under the spotlight

Stevenage Borough 1 Newcastle United 1

Whatever fate befalls them in the replay at Newcastle, Stevenage's contribution to this season's FA Cup has already more than justified the acres of newsprint devoted to yesterday's fourth-round tie at Broadhall Way.

One by one, sides from the higher reaches of the Football League bowed out tamely, leaving it to the team lying 15th in the Vauxhall Conference to demonstrate that the Premiership is not all it is cracked up to be and restore some of the competition's tarnished grandeur.

They did so despite the potentially morale-crushing blow of seeing Alan Shearer bulge their net after less than three minutes. The England centre- forward, starting a match for the first time since ankle surgery in August, scored with only his second touch of a bitterly cold afternoon.

Thereafter, however, Shearer was reduced to mere mortality by the diligent attentions of Mark Smith, a 30-year-old foundry supervisor who lists Hitchin and Letchworth among his former clubs. Stevenage responded to his example with spirit and no little skill, richly deserving to draw level before half-time through Giuliano Grazioli.

Perhaps to the relief of Kenny Dalglish's multi-million pound team, the second half was not nearly so eventful. Not that anyone from Stevenage was complaining at the end. In scenes reminiscent of Newcastle's exit at Hereford 26 years earlier, half of Hertfordshire flooded on to the pitch while the Toon hordes shivered in their temporary stand.

After all, in symbolic terms, the tie was a collision of the corner shop and the corporate machine. Stevenage's manager, Paul Fairclough, had assembled his squad for pounds 30,000, whereas Newcastle had their pounds 15m talisman back in a line-up littered with internationals.

As the visiting players limbered up before the match, the public-address announcer ran through the team changes. On reaching Shearer's name he joked that he could not make out the word. The Stevenage fans roared their approval. Shearer's face remained fixed in a frown, his concentration unwavering.

The crowd quickly discovered why. When a Stevenage free-kick was cleared by Steve Watson, it seemed elementary for Mike Love to return it to the Newcastle box. But they say love is blind, and the leftback did not appear to be aware of Keith Gillespie charging in to rob him. The winger raced clear before crossing, whereupon Shearer headed his first goal since scoring for England against France in June.

The apparent inevitability of it all would have deflated many higher- placed teams. Stevenage's response was to swarm towards Shaka Hislop's goal as if nothing had happened, perhaps remembering that when Newcastle were humbled at Edgar Street in 1972 Malcolm Macdonald had headed them in front in similar fashion.

The Borough architect was Neil Trebble, a tall, elegant midfielder whose knack of finding space between midfield and the strikers repeatedly threw Newcastle out. His wickedly curling free-kick almost forced an own goal from Rob Lee, whose header passed only inches wide.

Confidence grew visibly in the part-timers' ranks. Trebble found an ally in Grazioli, releasing him for what looked a valid equaliser until the referee ruled Gary Crawshaw offside. Still undaunted, Stevenage created further openings, only to find Hislop unwilling to play the fall guy.

A series of brilliant reflex saves denied Grazioli, Crawshaw and Trebble in turn. Yet with Newcastle edging nervously towards half-time, the towering Hislop was helpless as Grazioli's touch turned in a Crawshaw corner. The scorer had sprinted half way to Knebworth before his colleagues caught up with him.

Gillespie, the only obvious thoroughbred in Dalglish's side on the day, did his best to repeat the early service from which Shearer had profited. One cross late in the first half found its target at the far post, but Des Gallagher's point-blank save thwarted Shearer.

Stevenage did not trouble Hislop unduly after the interval, whereas Steve Howey sent one header wide and Philippe Albert saw another tipped over by Gallagher. But the underdogs had done more than enough to earn another 10 days basking in the media spotlight.

Afterwards, Fairclough was asked whether he feared the worst when Shearer struck. "Yes, I can't lie," came the reply. "I've had two parrots on my shoulder lately: one saying we'd get slaughtered and the other that we might win. It was great to get a draw."

Dalglish, pressed about the mood in the dressing-room, said tersely: "The players are delighted." If that is true, things are worse than we imagine at St James' Park.

Goals: Shearer (3) 0-1; Grazioli (42) 1-1.

Stevenage Borough (4-4-2) Gallagher; Dillnutt, Smith, Trott, Love (March, 43); Soloman, Perkins, Stapleton (Inman, 80), Trebble; Crawshaw, Grazioli (Wordsworth, 80). Subs not used: Fenton, Wilmot (gk).

Newcastle United: (4-4-1-1) Hislop; Watson, Howey, Pearce, Pistone; Gillespie, Lee, Batty, Beresford (Albert, 69); Barnes (Ketsbaia, 69); Shearer. Subs not used: Rush, Tomasson, Given (gk).

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).

Bookings: Stevenage: Crawshaw, Perkins. Newcastle: Beresford, Pistone, Shearer.

Attendance: 8,040 Man of the match: Smith.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game