Football: Shearer goes in search of smiles

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EVERTON WILL be relieved to put aside their struggle for Premiership survival and concentrate for an afternoon on an FA Cup quarter-final against Newcastle United at St. James' Park, but few expect it to be a carefree, pulsating tie.

Alan Shearer, the Magpies' England striker, certainly has his doubts. "Knowing the weather, that will be rubbish and we know the pitch is rubbish! Let's just hope the two teams aren't rubbish and we can put a decent game on. More importantly, let's hope that we can get into the next round."

Last season, of course, Newcastle reached the final. "Last season's semi- final will live in my memory for a long time," Shearer added, "seeing the smiles on people's faces when we got through. It would be tremendous if we got there again, reached the final and went a step further and won it."

At the start of that run to Wembley, Newcastle beat Everton 1-0, and have taken heart from their recovery to draw 1-1 with Arsenal last week. "We proved after being 1-0 behind for so long that we're not going to give in to anyone. If we adopt the same attitude against Everton we should be all right."

Everton will beg to differ and have a proven cup winner in their side. David Weir was part of the Hearts team that beat Walter Smith's Rangers to lift the Scottish Cup last season. In March, Smith, now at Everton, of course, paid the Edinburgh club pounds 250,000 to bring Weir to Goodison Park. "Walter hasn't mentioned that Scottish Cup Final to me," Weir said, "but I'm sure it will come up. Probably he feels I owe him something.

"This cup run has given us a welcome diversion from the battle to stay in the Premiership. I've only been here for a few games, and we haven't had much trouble scoring and getting good results, so I don't know why the form was not as good earlier in the season."

Newcastle's midfielder Gary Speed is suspended so their manager, Ruud Gullit, chooses between Robert Lee and the Croatian Silvio Maric to partner Dietmar Hamann.

In the Everton midfield, Tony Grant (hamstring) is fit to resume, Ibrahima Bakayoko has returned from Ivory Coast international duty and Don Hutchison returns after a one-match ban. But Olivier Dacourt, Michael Ball and Richard Dunne are all suspended.

In the Nationwide First Division, Manuel Thetis scored the only goal of the game as Ipswich Town took full advantage of Bradford City's day off by beating improving Tranmere Rovers at Portman Road and moving into second place.

Bolton Wanderers dropped a place to fifth after a helter-skelter ride of a game at Swindon Town where they trailed 2-0 and 3-1 but recovered to grab a point with late goals from Claus Jensen and Eidur Gudjohnson. Wanderers have now taken only two points out of a possible 12.

Birmingham City moved into fourth place after crushing Portsmouth 4-1 at St. Andrews. Guy Whittingham, on loan from Sheffield Wednesday, scored his sixth goal in six games in the fourth-minute but thereafter Brum proved much too powerful. Dele Adebola scored twice, the first a surging run past three defenders ending with a 25-yard shot that crashed in off the crossbar.

Watford lost 3-0 at Sheffield United and dropped out of the play-off places. West Bromwich Albion took advantage by beating Oxford United 2- 0 to slip into the final play-off berth.

The win came at some cost, however. Lee Hughes, Albion's leading scorer, lasted just 15 minutes before going off with an injured shoulder following a collision with Paul Gerrard, the Oxford goalkeeper.

It was an opportune time, then, for West Brom's Northern Ireland striker, James Quinn, to score his first goal for three months. Five minutes into the second half, Oxford's Joey Beauchamp was sent off for swearing and 23 minutes later Enzo Maresca put the result beyond doubt.

Finally, in the Third Division Cambridge United went top after a 3-0 win at Exeter City and Leyton Orient beat Rochdale 3-0 to go third.