Newcastle Utd 1 Southampton 0: Dyer hits fast forward for brighter future
Sunday 19 February 2006
Is it now that time of year to get all wobbly-kneed when mentioning the 51 years since Newcastle last won a major English trophy and the 37 years since they lifted any meaningful silverware at all?
It must be, as the latter stages of the FA Cup are here and Newcastle, in their sixth quarter-final in 10 years, are assembling a run which at least approximates their ceaseless ambition.
With Glenn Roeder now three from three since Graeme Souness's departure and Kieron Dyer making a spectacular return from a near six-month absence - he looked like he had not played first-team football for all of six minutes - belief will run riot in Geordieland.
It was certainly doing a full revolution within the matchwinner after repelling the brave challenge of Southampton. "You can see what it meant to me," said Dyer, the 27-year-old who has been out since August with a hamstring injury and illness. "The frustration and relief all came out of me. It feels good to be back on a football pitch."
Indeed, it was good to see him back - unless you were a Saint- as the midfielder did more than could possibly have been expected of him in an unfamiliar role up front necessitated by Alan Shearer's calf strain.
In the first half, the England international caused something resembling havoc in his free-floating role that the Championship side were not expecting, although it was Nolberto Solano who almost opened the scoring when getting on the end of a quite wondrous Charles N'Zogbia left-wing cross in the eighth minute.
Southampton's 18-year-old goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski proved man enough to deal with that far-post screecher, although if Shola Ameobi had got the kind of touch you know Shearer would have, that would not have been possible. But there was no doubting the value of the Pole's save four minutes later, when he called on a post to help keep out Ameobi's rasping drive, and again in the 22nd minute as Dyer attempted to finish off a neat interchange with Solano before his effort at the near post was turned away.
There was the whiff of a goal against the run of play when Kenwyne Jones flick-headed a Jim Brennan centre inches wide, but that is all it was - a whiff - and the portents of a breakthrough were still up the other end.
First Bialkowski turned away Ameobi's toe-poker off Solano's nod-down in the 36th minute and then produced a jaw-dropping, one-handed save to withstand Ameobi's piledriver. Jean-Alain Boumsong's header then bounced down off the crossbar from the resulting corner. Would their just deserts ever arrive?
It appeared not when the referee, Martin Atkinson, waved away a penalty appeal from Ameobi, and Southampton at last started to have faith in their own ability. By the hour mark Newcastle could have conceded three as Jones skied over a gift of a chance presented by Robbie Elliott's bungle in the 48th minute, then saw Shay Given make the finest save of the match when he attempted to put the gloss on a one-two with Peter Madsen and finally witnessed Madsen be similarly profligate with his own blast over. A shock was suddenly in the offing.
In the 68th minute, N'Zogbia skipped through the Southampton midfield and delivered a perfect ball into the path of Dyer, Southampton were scattered in an instant. And Dyer's pull of the trigger, nonchalantly firing past the helpless Bialkowski, effectively killed the contest.
There was time for the errant £9.5m signing, Albert Luque, to come on and try to prove to Roeder that his interest is genuine, although the Spaniard's influence was negligible. You could not say the same about Bialkowski, who was carried off on a stretcher after landing awkwardly and twisting a knee. His performance warranted a happier ending. So, perhaps, did Southampton's.
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