Football: Newcastle stand up to test of character

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Newcastle United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Birmingham City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

KEVIN KEEGAN believes in positive thinking, but even he was worried as his Newcastle United side found themselves two goals down at half-time to Birmingham City, who are still too near the bottom of the First Division for comfort.

However, Newcastle put behind them two uncharacteristic lapses to strike in the 60th and 61st minutes to draw level. In the closing stages, United bombarded City, and the Birmingham fans were pleading for the final whistle.

Andy Saville, one of Birmingham's six new outfield signings seems a bargain. He scored twice on his debut against Barnsley last week and yesterday scored Birmingham's first goal and set up the other for Ian Rodgerson.

Saville's goal came against the run of play after 32 minutes. David Smith played the ball into the Newcastle goal area after a short corner on the left and Saville drove it home from six yards. Seven minutes later, Saville, on the left, struck the ball across goal, Pavel Srnicek came for it but waited for either Kevin Scott or John Beresford to clear and Rodgerson nipped in to head past the Czech keeper.

Newcastle's first goal came on the hour when their pounds 1.75m signing, Andy Cole, drove the ball home after David Kelly had headed on a long clearance from Srnicek. Then Scott Sellars made a determined run down the left before whipping across a splendid ball for Robert Lee, who gave Bob Catlin no chance.

Other teams might have wilted in the face of such an onslaught, but this revitalised Birmingham side defended stubbornly and rode their luck to hold on for a point, which could be priceless to them come the seasonal day of judgement.

Newcastle United: Srnicek; Venison, Beresford, Bracewell, Scott, Howey, Lee, Cole, Kelly, Clark, Sellars. Substitutes not used: Kilcline, Robinson.

Birmingham City: Catlin; Hiley, Frain, Parris, Dryden, Matthewson, Moulden, Rodgerson, Saville, Peer, Smith. Substitutes not used: Mardon, Tait.

Referee: J Parker (Preston).

Reports, results, page 30