Football: Kelly's spot of luck

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United. .1

Millwall. . . . . .1

AN ALLEGED handling, or possibly pushing, offence spotted by a linesman late in the game, brought Newcastle an unexpected penalty that David Kelly converted to take United 10 points clear at the top of the First Division. It seemed a harsh decision on Millwall, who had been guarding a first-half lead through a combination of stubborn defending and some superb goalkeeping by Kasey Keller, who was rightly named as man of the match.

The incident that led to the penalty occurred just inside the Millwall area, when Ken Cunningham and the substitute, Alex Rae, challenged Robert Lee, only yards from a linesman. The ball bounced between the three players and there was some jostling before Lee went down. The linesman's flag shot up and the referee, Stephen Bell, who otherwise had an excellent match, immediately pointed to the spot. The Millwall players reacted angrily and Cunningham was cautioned for protesting too much. Kelly stepped up confidently to score his 12th goal of the season.

Millwall's view that they had been badly wronged was understandable, but Kelly remarked afterwards that United should have had two penalties early in the game. Even he was not sure why the penalty had been given.

Mick McCarthy, the Millwall manager, said: 'It was a disgrace. Yes, you could argue that Newcastle deserved a point on their overall play, but it was the manner in which they got it which was a disgrace. I went to see the referee after the game and he, Pontius Pilate, referred me to the linesman. The linesman said the penalty was for a push and handball. I thought he was going to say it could also have been a trip so he could cover himself on all sides. I'm afraid I'll be charged now for bringing the game into disrepute. The players were confused. In fact I think everyone was confused.'

Newcastle, who dominated much of the game, missed the skilful touches of their captain Gavin Peacock, absent through flu. They moved the ball around fluently but found it difficult to make the decisive touch in the Millwall penalty area, which was invariably packed.

United made life difficult for themselves by conceding a soft goal after 20 minutes. Kevin Scott tried to play the ball out of his area a shade too casually. His pass was intercepted by Jamie Moralee, who ran on to drive the ball past the hapless Pavel Srnicek.

Newcastle United: Srnicek; Venison, Beresford (Kilcline, 15), O'Brien, Scott, Howey, Lee, Bracewell, Kelly, Clark, Sheedy (Carr, 71).

Millwall: Keller; Cunningham, Dawes, May, Cooper, Stevens, Roberts, Moralee (Allen, 61), Bogie (Rae, 60), Goodman, Barber.

Referee: S Bell (Huddersfield).