Football: `We proved we can match them'

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The Independent Online
The Stevenage Borough manager, Paul Fairclough, said that he was pleased Alan Shearer played - because it denied Newcastle an excuse for yesterday's 1-1 FA Cup fourth-round draw.

"We proved today we can match them. It wasn't a fluke," Fairclough said after the game. "I'm glad Alan played because at least they cannot say: `We didn't have Shearer.'

"I'm extremely proud," he added. "It was a great performance by the players. We were unfortunate not to win the game, particularly after the first half display. Tiredness set in the second half but it was a commendable performance by the players."

"I won't complain about going to Newcastle - that was the plan! The lads were on a bigger bonus for the draw," Fairclough joked. But the Stevenage manager will be unable to field the same 11 heroes for the replay. "We have got something like four of the players who played today suspended, so that will weaken the side," he admitted.

"It's really a monumental game for the team. We'll just do the best that we can. But we'll have to formulate another plan for going up there."

The Stevenage scorer, Giuliano Grazioli, claimed that his side should have gone one better than a replay in Newcastle. "Our heads never dropped. We went down but we got straight back into it," he said. "I think we created the better chances. I think deep down all the players wanted to play at St James Park' so it's fantastic for us."

The man of the match, Mark Smith, said it was a great "thrill" to mark Alan Shearer and praised his team-mates' courage as they came back from an early goal to draw 1-1 with Newcastle. The Stevenage defender said: "We had to show great character to come back from a goal-down and we worked really hard."