Football: Superb Shearer awaits starter's orders

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United. . .1

Blackburn Rovers. . .1

ALAN SHEARER underlined his claim to a place in Blackburn's starting line-up by coming on as a substitute late in the second half against Newcastle United at St James' Park yesterday and stroking home a superb equaliser. His goal brought Rovers a point they scarcely deserved in a dour match.

Only in the closing stages, once Shearer had replaced Stuart Ripley, did Rovers look a convincing attacking side. Indeed, they might have won the match in the 87th minute when Graeme Le Saux beat two men and then crossed the ball invitingly to the far post where David May headed over with Liam O'Brien and Pavel Srnicek offering only token challenges.

A Blackburn winner would have been an injustice to Newcastle, who had enjoyed much of the possession in both halves. Even Kenny Dalglish, the Rovers manager, acknowledged that his side had not played very well. 'We can do better than that,' he said. 'Newcastle can take a bit of the credit, but we have to look to ourselves.'

Dalglish said he had not spoken to Graham Taylor, the England manager, about Shearer. 'It's up to Graham to decide whether he wants him. He can make up his own mind about his fitness. Alan has been out for six months. It's just a case of getting his sharpness back, which is the difference betwen Alan and an ordinary player.' The Blackburn manager added that if Taylor was not going to play Shearer he would rather he stayed in training with his club.

Kevin Keegan, the Newcastle manager, said he felt Shearer should be in the England squad. 'If he can score a goal like that when he's only 75 per cent fit, God knows what he'll do when he gets the other 25 per cent. If I were Graham Taylor I would call him up for the squad and judge his fitness for myself.'

Keegan took a realistic view of United's performance yesterday. 'There was plenty of effort, plenty of endeavour, but we took only one chance. There are a few things we have to work on.'

Newcastle's goal came on the hour when John Beresford floated a delightful ball between David May and Nicky Marker for Andy Cole to bring down quickly and score. There was a suspicion of offside against the No 9, but there was no doubt about Cole's earlier party trick. Receiving the ball from Robert Lee, he twice turned Tim Sherwood before striking the outside of the near post.

Shearer had been on the field seven minutes when Sherwood, on the half-way line, found him with a piercing ball through the middle that caught Newcastle's defence flat-footed. The England striker moved quickly to take the ball forward and flick it past the oncoming Srnicek with the outside of his right foot.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Srnicek; Watson, Venison, Scott, Beresford; Lee, O'Brien, Bracewell, Papavasiliou; Cole, Clark. Substitutes (not used): Allen, Nielson, Wright (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-3-1-2): Mimms; Berg, May, Marker, Le Saux; Sherwood, Andersson (Atkins, 62), Wilcox; Ripley (Shearer, 68); Newell, Gallacher. Substitute not used: Talia (gk).

Referee: S J Lodge (Barnsley).

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