Football: Newcastle toast late rewards

Newcastle United 5 Nottingham Forest 0
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The Independent Online
It was not quite the last day celebration the Toon Army envisaged when Philippe Albert made it five past Schmeichel at St James' Park back on 20 October. But at the end of another trophy-less campaign Newcastle's followers were toasting more than one unexpected consolation prize.

They roared their waiting heroes on a lap of honour when news of Liverpool's failure to win at Hillsborough confirmed Newcastle's place as Premiership runners-up and a passport into the European Cup next season.

And they roared even louder when the public address announced that North- east football had two Doon Armies yesterday. Europe will not be the only front on which Kenny Dalglish and his team will be flying the region's flag next season.

"It's sad for the North-east," Dalglish said, sounding a lone sympathetic note for the fate of Sunderland and Middlesbrough on Tyneside last night. "But it's a tremendous achievement for us. I said when I came that Kevin Keegan had put down sound foundations."

Those foundations are set for a summer overhaul, though, with four recruits - Des Hamilton, Bjarni Gudjonsson, Temuri Ketsbaia and Jon Dahl Tomasson - already signed and other new faces poised to follow them to Tyneside.

The old hands were doubtless keen to prove their worth yesterday but the only member of the home ranks to impress in the opening 20 minutes was Pavel Srnicek, who has declared his intention to return to the European mainland.

The former Czech soldier performed his guard duty with admirable dexterity as Forest came out fired up for their final fling on the big stage, turning shots by Scot Gemmill and Ian Moore round either goalpost.

Once Alan Fettis was beaten for the first time at the other end, though, Forest's capitulation was so pronounced that by the second half the game threatened to turn into a repeat of Newcastle's last match last season.

There was no chance of Dalglish emulating Kevin Keegan's cameo role in that game, a goal from the penalty spot in Stuart Pearce's testimonial, but he entered into the prevailing party spirit, satisfying popular demand for what might prove to be a final bow in black and white by Peter Beardsley.

The contest was over long before Beardsley was released from bench duty.

Warren Barton prompted the breakthrough after 21 minutes, feeding Faustino Asprilla, who slipped past Colin Cooper and produced a clipped finish to beat Fettis. Four minutes later Asprilla provided the assist for Ferdinand, who dragged the ball round Fettis and scuffed in his 19th goal of the season.

It was also Ferdinand's 100th goal in the Premiership, and his 101st was only four minutes in coming: a flashing drive from the right edge of the Forest area. When an Alan Shearer header made it 4-0 with just 36 minutes gone - the England captain's 28th goal in his first season as a Newcastle player - it seemed that Forest were going to disappear into the Nationwide League in an avalanche.

It was a victory of sorts that they managed to limit the damage to just one more concession in the 54 minutes which remained: a long-ranger by Robbie Elliott 12 minutes from the end.

Goals: Asprilla (21) 1-0; Ferdinand (23) 2-0; Ferdinand (27) 3- 0; Shearer (36) 4-0; Elliott (78) 5-0.

Newcastle United (3-4-1-2): Srnicek; Watson, Peacock, Albert (Gillespie, 69); Barton, Batty (Beardsley, 72), Elliott, Beresford; Asprilla (Clark, 66); Shearer, Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Hamilton, Hislop (gk).

Nottingham Forest (3-5-2): Fettis; Cooper, Phillips, Chettle; Lyttle, Gemmill, O'Neill (Saunders, 78), Woan, Bart-Williams (Allen, h-t); Campbell, Moore. Substitutes not used: Jerkan, Roy, Hendry (gk).

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham). Booking: Newcastle: Batty.

Man of the match: Barton.

Attendance: 36,554.