Kluivert proves another thorn in Megson's side

Newcastle United 3 - West Bromwich Albion 1
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The Independent Football

There have been worse times in the football life of Gary Megson, not least on Tyneside. Back in November 1984, he arrived at St James' Park with his pride and his playing reputation at a nadir after three months and no first-team games at Nottingham Forest.

"I didn't pick him because I didn't rate him," Brian Clough said of the midfielder he bought from Sheffield Wednesday for £170,000 and sold to Newcastle United for £110,000. "I didn't think he had the ability to trap a bag of sand."

Megson, the player, gratefully clutched the lifeline Jack Charlton threw his way at Newcastle. Megson, the manager, looked in grave danger of sinking at St James' on Saturday.

On the back of a Carling Cup defeat at Colchester and a rapidly deteriorating relationship with his chairman, a seventh failure to win in the Premiership this season has left his job hanging by the slenderest of threads. It is unlikely to withstand the strain of another defeat, if one should materialise when Bolton visit the Hawthorns on Saturday.

"I don't feel under more pressure than anyone else to get results," Megson maintained on his post-match visit to the Newcastle media room. "What's going on off the field I can't do a lot about. In terms of feeling the pressure ... not really."

In terms of the fates conspiring against the West Bromwich manager, perhaps the answer would be different.

By the time Geoff Horsfield directed an 87th-minute header almost apologetically into the Leazes End net on Saturday, Megson's Albion were a well-beaten shambles of a side. They were anonymous in the first half as a creative, let alone attacking, unit. And yet, having survived a handful of Newcastle chances, they were getting on top and threatening to take the lead when the tide turned decisively against them.

To be fair, they brought the deep water upon themselves. Darren Purse was more of a sow's ear, a red card waiting to happen from the moment he scythed down Craig Bellamy and then bloodied Ricardo Scimeca's nose while attempting to elbow Andy O'Brien. You could have cried for Megson if you were not already crying with laughter.

It was comical, too, that Purse - having escaped a second yellow for his elbowing and for his pole-axing of Shay Given - should eventually secure his inevitable dismissal for attempting but apparently failing to grasp the passing Patrick Kluivert.

"If you take the two bookings in isolation, I thought the first one was a bit soft and the second one was even softer," Megson said. "If centre-halves are going to get sent off for those kind of things, then you're going to be down to 10 men and fewer on more and more occasions. The challenge on Kanu when he was through and I felt the last man, it's very hard to take. When you go down to 10 men against a talented side or a side with a great deal of talented players, then you're going to have problems."

Within seven minutes of Purse's dismissal, Megson's numerically-challenged men were playing catch-up, Kluivert firing his fourth goal in as many starts for Newcastle. James Milner and Alan Shearer were also on target as Albion capitulated and Laurent Robert and Jermaine Jenas ran them ragged.

It was Newcastle's third win in three matches under Graeme Souness, who once again played his tactics and his substitutions to a masterful tee. The new Newcastle manager is coaxing a valuable contribution, if not quite the best, out of Kluivert.

As for Nwankwo Kanu, that other teenage starlet of the European Cup-winning Ajax class of 1995, the Nigerian is looking increasingly like a lost rose among the prickles closing in on Megson and the Hawthorns.

Goals: Kluivert (70) 1-0; Milner (78) 2-0; Shearer (86) 3-0; Horsfield (87) 3-1.

Newcastle United (4-1-2-1-2): Given; Carr, O'Brien, Elliott, Bernard; Butt; Jenas, Bowyer; Kluivert (Milner, 77); Bellamy (Robert, 55), Shearer. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Ambrose, Hughes.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult; Scimeca, Purse, Gaardsoe, Albrechtsen; Greening, Johnson, Koumas (Gera, 61), Clement; Earnshaw (Horsfield, h-t), Kanu. Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Moore, O'Connor.

Referee: M Riley (Yorkshire).

Booked: Newcastle: Bowyer, Elliott, Kluivert. West Bromwich: Purse, Greening, Purse.

Sent off: Purse, 63.

Man of the match: Jenas.

Attendance: 52,308.