Football: Wednesday hit by yardstick

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1 For the Premiership manager who wants to know how good his side really are, a visit to St James' Park is the current yardstick. Sheffield Wednesday were the latest team to be subjected to the most thorough examination, in which they were turned, twisted, tormented and finally beaten into submission.

After his side's narrow but deserved win, Kevin Keegan, the Newcastle manager, said: 'I don't think we've played better than we did in the first half. We didn't really want half-time to come.'

Newcastle rarely reached the heights again in the second half, for which some credit is due to Wednesday, who pulled back a goal.

Trevor Francis, Wednesday's manager, said: 'Although there's never any pleasure in losing, the journey home is not so bad when you lose to the best team in the country. The game could have slipped away from us at 2-0, but we thought we might be in with a chance after the break because of the number of games Newcastle are playing.'

His observations were put to Keegan, who said: 'I suppose he's right, but we just have to get on with it. There's no good whingeing. In fact, I sometimes think it's better to be playing two games a week than to spend a week on the training ground.'

Keegan was also asked about the likelihood of Alex Ferguson fielding a young, inexperienced Manchester United side against Newcastle in the Coca-Cola Cup on Wednesday. 'I don't blame him at all. In fact, I think the Premiership champions should be exempt from the next season's FA Cup and Coca-Cola Cup until the fourth round.'

Newcastle themselves were not at full strength on Saturday, with Barry Venison, Robert Lee and Steve Howey missing through injury. But Paul Kitson, their recent pounds 2.25m signing from Derby County, was playing alongside Andy Cole with sharp intelligence until he took a clearance from Kevin Pressman full in the face and eventually left the field with concussion.

Newcastle's goals came in the 36th and 38th minutes from Steve Watson and Andy Cole, assisted by Lee Clark and Scott Sellars. It was an impressive performance by Clark, who was out for many weeks through injury.

Wednesday's goal was scored by Ian Taylor early in the second half after Mark Bright's leap for the ball had confused Pavel Srnicek.

Goals: Watson (35) 1-0; Cole (37) 2-0; Taylor (55) 2-1.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Srnicek; Hottiger, Peacock, Albert, Beresford; Fox, Beardsley, Watson, Sellars; Kitson (Clark, 22), Cole. Substitutes not used: Mathie, Hooper (gk).

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Atherton (Petrescu, 66), Pearce, Walker, Nolan; Taylor, Hyde, Sheridan, Sinton; Bright, Hirst (Bart-Williams, 29). Substitute not used: Key (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Tilehurst).