Football: Keegan salutes Cole's quality

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The Independent Online
West Ham United. . . . 2

Breacker 57, Martin 81

Newcastle United. . . .4

Lee 34, 73, Cole 69, Mathie 90

Attendance: 23,132

COACHING curmudgeons may shake their heads at the defensive deficiencies in this one but those with a soul left Upton Park thankful for Newcastle's latest goal-fest, in which West Ham played a large part.

Two goals by Robert Lee - four now in two matches, having also contributed a brace to Newcastle's 7-1 win over Swindon last week - against the club he supported as a boy kept the Tyneside fires burning as they chase a place in the Uefa Cup next season.

Though they encountered a side whose only safe form of defence is an outstanding attack, the alarming aspect for West Ham was in the parting of their defence, showing the frailty of old. It did not augur well for the visit to Luton, FA Cup conquerors of Newcastle, in a quarter-final replay on Wednesday.

Newcastle's victory was all the more creditable given their makeshift look, with no fewer than six of the 13 used yesterday orginally full-backs. It is why their manager, Kevin Keegan, resources eaten into by injury, will seek again before Thursday's transfer deadline to sign at least one new centre-back, possibly Coventry's Phil Babb, or Queens Park Rangers' Darren Peacock.

Where there is the partnership of Peter Beardsley - a delight again in that position so difficult to defend between the opposition's defence and midfield - and Andy Cole, though, defensive frailty can always be overcome, as they proved.

It was Cole who provided the assist - a less heralded part of his game - from which Lee shot home, via a vicious deflection off Steve Potts, to give Newcastle the lead. West Ham were now struggling for rhythm, their only real chance of the first half coming when Trevor Morley exploited the visitors' lack of defensive height and forced Pavel Srnicek to save.

They found it early in the second half, however, with a splendid move that illustrated all the virtues of their one-touch midfield. Matthew Holmes on the left played the ball infield to Ian Bishop, who moved it on to Mike Marsh. His pass forward was threaded perfectly into the path of Tim Breacker and the full-back drove home across Srnicek.

Cole, often error-prone but ever a threat, illustrated his quality and speed off the mark when he restored the Newcastle lead by hooking home a cross from Ruel Fox for his 35th goal of the season, 28 in the League. 'He has such great elasticity,' said Keegan in admiration afterwards.

Cole's next stretch, having been fed by Beardsley, was to send clear the confident Lee, who grew in stature in the central midfield role allocated with the arrival of Fox and injury to Lee Clark, and he drove firmly home. 'He has taken the position at the front of the diamond and he has been a diamond,' Keegan said.

Alvin Martin, a charging warhorse as ever, headed home Holmes's cross to threaten a frantic finale but Cole's wriggling in the penalty area produced a chance for the substitute Alex Mathie to score with a low shot.

'Bobby Moore sitting up in his new stand would have been proud of the game,' Keegan said. One hesitates to say it, but should the manager acquire some solidity in defence to go with the soul, Newcastle may not be too far short of Manchester United.

West Ham, who could do with erecting that new stand in front of their goal at Kenilworth Road this week in the absence of Bobby Moore, will settle at present for being just ahead of Luton.