Football: Newcastle in sight of record

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The Independent Online
Sunderland. . . .1

Newcastle United. 2

FOR passion this has always been the greatest of English derbies, football being ensconced in the hearts of the two cities, unlike the more cosmopolitan communities to the south. Ship-building and mining were even more important and the Sunderland club unashamedly made the political point of inviting miners to parade a lodge banner before yesterday's kick-off 'to express our support, concern and respect for those involved'.

There was rather less concern and respect among the rival bands of supporters, the kick-off being delayed two minutes because of overflows and fighting in the crowd, a further short delay coming after Newcastle's first goal.

There was much at stake. Newcastle had won 10 successive League matches and now need one more to beat Spurs' 11 in the First Division and three more to surpass Reading's record 13. They had not won at Roker since 1956 but always had this match in hand, creating more and better chances.

Their opening goal was greased lightning. Liam O'Brien to Barry Venison on the flank; Gavin Peacock hit the ball first time back to Robert Lee on the wing, a move that wrong-footed Sunderland, and from the second cross Gary Owers put the ball over the line with the defence looking in three different directions. It was the Keegan-McDermott game revived and applied in another decade.

The crowd, relishing a brilliant day, then forced Sunderland into such a head of steam that Owers hit the bar and Gary Bennett had a goal disallowed, but that frustration checked their speed. The third quarter was a disappointment, Newcastle losing some of their pace, Sunderland still unable to match them until, after 65 minutes, Gordon Armstrong replaced David Rush.

Four minutes later he was the hero of Roker, turning on Owers's centre to fire the equaliser through the throng. The euphoria lasted six minutes before O'Brien floated a free-kick over the Sunderland wall and wide of Tim Carter, beaten by the flight. The Newcastle end went dotty and might have had two more goals to cheer as Newcastle finished fiercely.

Kevin Keegan described this fixture as 'our Becher's Brook', adding: 'We mustn't underestimate the rest of the Division. Neither team could have given more. I've played in some Liverpool- Everton games, none better than this. Liam's winner was a classic.'

Sunderland: Carter; Kay, Rogan, Owers, Bennett, Ball, Cunnington, Goodman, Davenport, Atkinson, Rush (Armstrong, 65). Substitute not used: Colquhoun.

Newcastle United: Wright; Venison, Beresford, O'Brien, Scott, Howey, Lee, Peacock, Kelly, Clark, Brock. Substitutes not used: Quinn, Kilcline.

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Two of the six clubs forming a chasing group behind Newcastle at the top of the First Division, Charlton and Leicester, both lost 2-0 at home yesterday. Charlton lost their second match in succession, to neighbours Millwall at Upton Park. Alex Rae and Jamie Moralee, with his first League goal, were the scorers. Leicester succumbed to Peterborough's fourth away win of the season, Tony Philliskirk and Worrell Sterling doing the damage.