Intertoto Cup Shearer climbs above the tedium

Newcastle United 2 Dubnica 0
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The Independent Online

As an exercise in persuading a significant minority of disaffected supporters that one of 2,000 available season tickets might be a wise investment, it is to be hoped Newcastle's hastily put together advertising campaign on Tyne Tees TV proves more effective.

Frankly, one side was not fit enough, the other not good enough, to make this anything more than a mundane, functional spectacle which served to seal a comfortable passage into Wednesday's Intertoto Cup semi-finals.

Those in a sparse turn-out who had bothered to take advantage of half-price admission will have satisfied themselves that rusty though their side may be, it was still mission accomplished, in their campaign for a Uefa Cup place by stealth. Alan Shearer relieved the tedium with two headers in the last 20 minutes, the first from a James Milner corner, the second from an inviting Stephen Carr cross in injury time, to reward Newcastle's dominance.

It meant an uneventful afternoon for a back line that Graeme Souness, the manager, intends to strengthen with Craig Moore, the Australia international defender, who is available on a free transfer after having his contract cancelled by Borussia Mönchengladbach following a breach of club discipline.

As in their comfortable first-leg victory, there was more interest in who was not on the Newcastle team-sheet as who was, with thesummer arrivals Scott Parker and Emre Belozoglu - who cost a total of £10 million - still absentees, pencilled in for involvement later in the competition.

Newcastle remain confident of adding Nicolas Anelka and Luis Boa Morte to their attacking options in time for the start of the Premiership season, despite their respective clubs, Fenerbahce and Fulham, rebuffing combined initial offers approaching £10m in the past 48 hours.

There was a starting place for Lee Bowyer, despite the midfield player expressing, in no uncertain terms, his disillusionment at his impending departure after being given permission to launch what turned out to be abortive transfer talks with Birmingham City and Charlton Athletic this summer.

Despite the semi-final place on offer, the contest to all intents and purposes retained the air of a pre-season friendly. A lithe though limited Dubnica side were unable to exploit Newcastle's palpable and understandable lack of match fitness less than three weeks into summer training.

Employing the 4-3-3 formation Souness intends to go into the new season with - albeit using a much-changed personnel should the manager's transfer dealings bear fruit - the hosts barely needed to leave the comfort zone to keep the Slovakians at arm's length. Jermaine Jenas, taking his seasonal bow as one of four changes from the first meeting, had come closest to breaking the deadlock midway through a low-key first-half, curling a 25-yard free-kick against the bar.

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