Football: Newsome gruesome for Toon

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Di Canio 1, Newcome 51 Newcastle United 1 Tomasson 20 Attendance: 29,446
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STEVENAGE BOROUGH must be quite a team, because no person of sound mind would consider charging pounds 40 to watch the shadow of a team Newcastle United have become. "It's like watching paint dry," Kevin Fletcher, editor of the fanzine Talk Of The Toon, complained. And that was before the once- mighty Magpies continued their alarming freefall towards the Premiership's relegation zone at Hillsborough yesterday.

The gloss has been stripped from Newcastle's season of great expectations since the September night they beat Barcelona at St James' Park. After another defeat, and another desperately dull display, the Toon Army is in serious danger of being renamed the Doon Army.

It was Newcastle's eighth successive league game without a win. They are just four points above the trap door now and, to the increasing concern of their supporters, they are playing like a team threatening to plummet straight through it. Not that Kenny Dalglish, having survived his midweek encounter with Jeremy Paxman, will admit to a fear of the Premiership axe-man. "We're not looking over our shoulders," he insisted. "We're just looking forward to our next game."

It did not augur well for the Newcastle manager that his team were forced to wear the navy blue shirts they had studiously avoided since the October afternoon on which they started to lose their seasonal bearings.

On that occasion, Dalglish's players mistook David Elleray for one of their own. The Harrow schoolmaster received so many passes he was obliged to don a royal blue sweatshirt stamped with the club crest of the hosts, Leeds United. Newcastle lost 4-1 and they looked set for a similarly harrowing experience yesterday when Mr Elleray - helpfully clad in green - signalled a goal against them just 50 seconds after the opening blast of his whistle.

Tommy Burns, standing next to Dalglish at pitch-side, must have winced as the ball whistled past Shaka Hislop into the roof of the Newcastle net. It was he who was responsible for importing the striking talent of Paolo Di Canio. This time last year the Italian was sporting green and white boots as one of Burns' Bhouys at Celtic. Yesterday his shoes were blue and white and it was the right one that fired the opening goal, from a range of 10 yards, with ammunition supplied from the right flank by Benito Carbone.

Newcastle fleetingly clawed their way into the game, Jon Dahl Tomasson bundling a 20th-minute equaliser past Kevin Pressman at the second attempt. It was, however, a far from even contest. Wednesday, with Petter Rudi roaming free in midfield and Di Canio rampant in attack, ought to have won at a canter. But Di Canio's shooting boots betrayed him after delivering that brilliant opening blast.

It was a member of the scarcely troubled home guard who struck what proved to be the winning blow, Jon Newsome hooking a right-foot shot past Hislop five minutes into the second half. It left Wednesday level on points with Newcastle. The Owls, though, are flying in an upward direction.