Football: Newcastle show their quality

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Millwall. . . . . . .1

Newcastle United. . .2

TO withstand the peculiar passions and hostility of The Den, to rouse the hosts to new heights of fervour by granting them a goal start and then to effect a sea change through force of personality is truly the stamp of First Division champions. Newcastle will be a worthy addition to the Premier League because they possess character as well as class.

They have two other capital C's, Andrew Cole and Lee Clark, who made the difference here with second- half efforts. The new goalscorer and the precocious playmaker are Newcastle's stars in strikes.

'We call Clark Andy's silhouette because they go everywhere together,' Kevin Keegan said. 'Newcastle have always had one star, a Macdonald, a Waddle or a Gazza, but as a combination these two could be just as exciting.'

Cole is an interesting proposition, exhausting every possibility to score, it seemed, before, confidence and determination unimpaired, he seized on Brian Kilcline's header to turn adroitly and plant his shot beyond Kasey Keller. He has pace and a hunger for goals, scoring seven in that number of starts following his pounds 1.75m transfer from Bristol City.

'You've seen what Andy Cole is all about today,' Keegan said. 'He did not have a particularly good game but still created three or four good chances and will be disappointed not to have scored more.'

The early signs favoured Millwall when Phil Barber's cross from the byline took a deflection past Pavel Srnicek. Millwall's preference for the early ball left Kilcline and his fellow defenders facing their own goal too often for comfort, but relief in the form of the left-hand upright was twice at hand as Colin Cooper and Malcolm Allen were denied in rapid succession.

A second goal could have wrought significant changes to the promotion picture with Newcastle vulnerable to Portsmouth's surge, and Millwall's play-off ambitions renewed.

'They gave us more problems in 45 minutes than any other team this season,' Keegan said. But with half-time came the opportunity to regroup and improve. Where Alex Rae and Allen had dominated, it was their turn to dig in and defend.

Cole made a mess of an early second-half shooting chance, but finally set up an opening for Clark before following him on to the score sheet.

'I said we needed three wins out of our last five games and that's still the case but it's looking less and less likely. We probably need snookers now,' a disappointed Millwall manager, Mick McCarthy, said.

Goals: Barber (19) 1-0; Clark (66) 1-1; Cole (74) 1-2.

Millwall: Keller; Cunningham, Dawes, Roberts, Cooper, Maguire, Rae, Wallis, (Gaynor, 70) Allen, Goodman (Dolby, 60), Barber.

Newcastle United: Srnicek; Venison, Beresford, Bracewell, Scott, Kilcline, Lee, Cole (Robinson, 83), Kelly, Clark, Sellars. Substitute not used: Brock.

Referee: V Callow (Solihull).