FOOTBALL: Srnicek wins folk-hero status

Newcastle United 1 Everton 0
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The Independent Online
Pavel Srnicek is one of the wonders of the great Newcastle revival. Signed by Jim Smith for pounds 350,000 from Banik Ostrava, his days on Tyneside seemed numbered when he conceded 32 goals in the first 15 games of the 1991-2 season - including six in one match at Tranmere.

But that was back in the dark days when the Magpies were on course for the old Third Division. On Saturday, as Kevin Keegan's new-age Newcastle maintained their 100 per cent home record, Srnicek confirmed the folk- hero status he has earned on Tyneside.

That much was evident by the spontaneous ovation nine minutes from time when the Newcastle goalkeeper capped a sparkling display with a stunning save, changing direction in mid-dive to keep out a deflected Anders Limpar shot.

It saved Newcastle two points, though technically it was Les Ferdinand's 21st goal of the season (an acutely angled finish to a brilliant Peter Beardsley through ball) which secured victory for a team reduced to 10 men after John Beresford's dismissal for tripping the rampant Andrei Kanchelskis in the 33rd minute.

Srnicek's acrobatics evoked memories of the goalkeeping heroics which brought the last major trophy to a North-east club. And Jim Montgomery, whose heroics beat Don Revie's Leeds at Wembley in 1973, is the coach- cum-mentor Srnicek credits for transforming him.

Suspension at the start of this season cost Srnicek his first-team place at St James' Park but Shaka Hislop's injured thigh has given him the chance to regain it.

"Pavel is the man in possession now," Keegan said. "He's taken his chance with both hands - and both feet. He was a bit ropey by all accounts but he's really won over the fans." An adopted Geordie for five years, Srnicek has eclipsed the Chilean Robledo brothers - George and Ted - of the 1950s as the longest-serving foreigner in Newcastle history.

"I conceded five goals in Duncan Ferguson's comeback game for Everton's reserves the week before last," he said. "I was rubbish. I didn't save a thing."

Ferguson beat Srnicek twice in that second-string match at Goodison but, as a second-half substitute on Saturday, he found the boot on the other foot.

Goal: Ferdinand (18) 1-0.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Srnicek; Barton, Peacock, Howey, Beresford; Gillespie (Albert 39), Clark, Lee, Ginola; Beardsley, Ferdinand. Substitute not used: Watson, Huckerby.

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Unsworth, Short, Watson, Ebbrell; Kanchelskis, Jackson (Ferguson 56), Parkinson (Horne 45), Limpar; Amokachi, Stuart. Substitute not used: Kearton (gk).

Referee: P. Durkin (Portland).

Sending-off: Beresford. Bookings: Parkinson, Horne.

Man of the match: Srnicek. Attendance: 36,557.