Shearer's strike blows clouds away

Newcastle United 3 - Coventry City 1
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The Independent Football

After a week of grey cloud and the sort of unrelenting drizzle that seeps through to the soul, kick-off on Tyneside dawned beneath blue skies, and Newcastle breezed past the Sky Blues and into the fifth round.

After a week of grey cloud and the sort of unrelenting drizzle that seeps through to the soul, kick-off on Tyneside dawned beneath blue skies, and Newcastle breezed past the Sky Blues and into the fifth round.

The few wispy white clouds let a watery sun warm the East Stand - a first hint of spring, a first sign of a corner turned. Although Newcastle allowed Coventry back into the game a second or so before half-time, they calmly and efficiently came out for the second half and scored within seven minutes of the restart. Had Patrick Kluivert - one of three strikers, none of whom was Craig Bellamy, deployed by Graeme Souness - been less wasteful, the scoreline would have been more emphatic.

"They'll be a decent bet for a run in the Cup," said Micky Adams, taking charge of his first game as Coventry manager and giving debuts to loan signings Christian Negouai and Richard Duffy. "Particularly if my old mate Alan Shearer is packing in - he will want to win it."

Naturally it was Shearer who got Newcastle on their way. They had been thwarted by Luke Steele, the 20-year-old goalkeeper on loan from Manchester United, who had made two splendid early saves: the first low to his left to tip away Celestine Babayaro's drive; the second high on the same side to turn away Jermaine Jenas's header. Duffy also had to be brave to deny Shearer at the end of a flowing move that Amdy Faye, making his debut after his £2 million transfer from Portsmouth, started in his own half.

Eventually, in the 37th minute, Shearer scored. Inevitably, in fact, as in his previous 16 games against Coventry he had scored 17 goals. For his 18th, the master craftsman took one touch to control Jenas's pass, two quick dance steps to position his body, and then he unleashed an emphatic strike low into the corner of the net. Five minutes later, Shola Ameobi robbed Stuart Giddings on the right, wrong-footed Dean Leacock and drove equally emphatically past Steele.

But Newcastle are Newcastle, and that decreed that Coventry should be given a goal on the stroke of half-time, Dele Adebola rising highest to meet Stephen Hughes's corner.

Yet perhaps Newcastle really have turned a corner. Rather than make life hard for themselves and tense for their followers, Kieron Dyer fed Babayaro, who burst between Duffy and Leacock to fire powerfully home off Adie Williams. He celebrated his first Newcastle goal with a double cartwheel, but Souness hardly sounded head-over-heels. "I felt from the way we started in the first minute, there wasn't going to be a shock," he said. "But to have all that ball and only score three goals is a wee bit disappointing."

There was a gentle smattering of polite applause on the final whistle, suggesting that the supporters were also not carried away, but they were at least relieved that, after their traumatic week, football had become comfortable again. They also know that, on Tyneside, there have been more false dawns than Shearer has scored goals against Coventry.

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