Football: Newcastle put on an exhibition

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United. . . . . 7

Beardsley pen 12, 70, Lee 17, 67

Watson 76, 79, Fox 84

Swindon Town. . . . . . . 1

Moncur 77

Attendance: 32,216

THERE WERE similarities between the sides on display at St James' Park yesterday. Both were promoted last season and both have been lauded for their adherence to passing the ball along the ground. There, however, the likenesses end and the differences begin.

For one, Newcastle will stay up and Swindon will not, and for two, the secret of any pass lies in its speed and accuracy, no matter what its route. It did not need a coaching expert of whatever creed to distinguish that simple truth. Within five minutes of the start Newcastle had exposed the weakened Swindon defence three times, within 18 they led by two goals and the demonstration culminated with five more in a 17- minute period in the second half.

'They were brilliant,' the Swindon manager, John Gorman, conceded, concurring with his Newcastle counterpart, Kevin Keegan. 'They did what we try to do, they were coming at us from everywhere and to be honest they were the best side we have faced in the Premiership this season.' Having faced quite a lot, Gorman's word should be respected.

Keegan said: 'We are third on merit - make no mistake about that. I don't think anybody could have stopped us today once we got a couple ahead. It was a step towards Europe but there's still a long way to go.

'People looking at the score will ask how many Andy Cole scored,' Keegan continued. He did not score, though he will probably hang on to his place. 'If you are to win anything or become a major force you have to be able to rely on other people as well,' Keegan said. 'It's lovely that we've proved we can get goals from other positions.'

It was perhaps not quite an object lesson because Newcastle were pretty much allowed eventually to do as they wanted by an opposition whose legs went and whose heart, while it never gave out, was surely not far behind. Nothing epitomised the match better than the two thirtysomethings on the pitch.

Peter Beardsley, 33, while not quite at his luminous best still glittered as brightly as the silver salver with which he was presented before the match to mark his 50th England cap last week. But Frank McAvennie, also once a free-scoring forward, deserved little more than a paper plate for his effort in the Swindon forward line, let down perpetually by his lack of pace.

Beardsley gave Newcastle the lead with a 13th-minute penalty after he had been tripped darting for a return pass in the area. The second came from Robert Lee five minutes later, put clear by Scott Sellars, shrugging off the looming markers to fire home on the run. That goal was Lee's first in the Premiership this season and its novelty seemed to indicate one of Newcastle's weaknesses - their reliance on Beardsley and Andy Cole. But the second half overcame that too.

Beginning in the 68th minute they added five more goals by the 85th, all of them owing something to smart passing. Lee got his second after Cole's shot was parried, Beardsley placed home his second after rounding Fraser Digby and Steve Watson, another man goalless before the match, embellished a quite exemplary performance with the fifth and sixth goals. His first was set up initially by a shrewd pass from Ruel Fox - shades of Beardsley - and the second was a follow-up to another Cole shot. Fox scored the seventh, gliding in on a short cross from Sellars. Somewhere in between John Moncur scored for Swindon from a free-kick.

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