Football: Shearer finds the perfect response

Newcastle United 3 Hamann 33, Shearer 52, Ketsbaia 86 Bradford City 0 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 36,698
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The Independent Online
THERE WAS a shock after all at St James' Park yesterday. Ruud Gullit's struggling, disaffected Newcastle United team managed to summon sufficient collective clout to upset the form book and end Bradford City's 10-match unbeaten run. They did so, ironically, with goals from two of the less than happy campers in Gullit's unsettled squad.

Dietmar Hamman, not amused when his colleagues presented him with a copy of Mein Kampf at Christmas and openly critical of his manager in the German press in recent weeks, calmed Newcastle nerves with a tap-in, against the run of play, in the 33rd minute. And Alan Shearer, whose frosty relationship with Gullit has seemingly gone into deep freeze after a midweek training ground spat, effectively put the tie beyond Bradford's grasp seven minutes into the second half. Temuri Ketsbaia added a third with four minutes remaining but, strange though it may seem, Newcastle needed fortune on their side.

"We had our fair share of luck today," Steve Clarke, Gullit's assistant, conceded. "The scoreline certainly flattered us. The game was closer than that." Gullit, apparently, departed on the final whistle. "He's gone to bed with flu," Clarke said. An interest in the fifth-round draw will no doubt ease the Dutchman's suffering, though all is far from well at St James' Park.

From beating Barcelona to being scared of Bradford, the Magpies have fallen a long way in 16 months. They could ill-afford to continue their descent with a loss to lower league opposition yesterday, especially with Kevin Keegan due back at St James' for Peter Beardsley's testimonial match on Wednesday. But they hardly started as favourites, with just two wins from their last 13 Premiership fixtures. Bradford, by contrast, arrived on Tyneside on an unbeaten run of 10 matches.

They also had such seasoned campaigners as Stuart McCall, who scored twice for Everton in the 1989 final against Liverpool, and Gary Walsh, who has played in front of a 114,000 crowd in the European Cup. The Bradford goalkeeper did not exactly have the best of nights for Manchester United in the Nou Camp as Peter Schmeichel's surprise replacement five years ago but he had little to worry him in the first-half yesterday.

Bradford, inspired by a travelling band of 4,500 supporters, showed a cutting edge from the fifth minute, when Jamie Lawrence dissected the Newcastle defence with a pass from deep that left Robbie Blake bearing down on the home goal. The young Teessider was not sharp enough to make the most of his chance, though, squaring the ball to Lee Mills, whose first-time shot was smothered by Shay Given.

Between them, the veteran McCall and the youthful Gareth Whalley gave the First Division side a controlling midfield influence against a Newcastle side lacking both cohesion and creative nous. It took the combined hustling of Andy Griffin and Laurent Charvet to halt the charging Blake in the 20th minute, and seven minutes later Newcastle had referee Paul Durkin to thank for remaining on level terms. Given sent Lawrence crashing to the Tyneside turf as the winger chased a Blake ball into the left side of the Newcastle box. It looked a penalty but Mr Durkin signalled a goal- kick, leaving Paul Jewell, the Bradford manager, apoplectic at pitch-side.

Jewell's players did not allow the apparent injustice to affect them, Whalley firing into the side-netting on the half-hour. But they were rueing their ill fortune two minutes later when Walsh failed to hold on to a Ketsbaia shot, and Hamann side-footed into an unguarded goal. It was cruel luck on Bradford and more was to follow in first-half injury-time. Rising to meet Whalley's right-wing corner, McCall beat Given with a glancing header, but the Bradford captain did not beat the Irishman's right-hand post.

Within the space of two early second-half minutes the tie turned decisively Newcastle's way. A Ketsbaia flick sent Shearer through the middle and the England captain's predatory powers returned. As his right-foot shot flew past Walsh and into the Gallowgate End goal, St James' sighed with relief. Bradford, to their credit, fought on, Darren Moore forcing a brilliant point-blank save from Given. But, with four minutes remaining, Ketsbaia broke clear and beat Walsh with a low shot.