Newcastle count the cost of Shearer's slip

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The Independent Online

If Bobby Robson and George Burley had indeed staked their mortgages on Alan Shearer scoring from the penalty spot, two very fine homes in Suffolk would now be on the market.

What proved the last kick of a match that began with all the woodenness of a daytime Australian soap and ended in the highest drama might have had enormous consequences. Had Shearer scored, as Burley and Robson fully expected, the disappointment might have been too much for Ipswich to have taken.

To have lost a match in which they were leading until the 88th minute could have had a fatal impact on a club which face five of their last eight fixtures against sides in the top seven. Instead, they took their first point back to East Anglia since 2 February, knowing that wins against Bolton and Middlesbrough are essential if a club whose attitude and footballing principles have graced the Premiership are to survive.

Ipswich were fortunate in that Shearer struck probably the worst penalty of his career. The Newcastle captain described it as "garbage" and "rubbish", although, unlike most of his peers who become Garbos in football shirts in these circumstances, at least the Newcastle captain had the courage to face the media.

It was awarded for the lightest of pushes on Clarence Acuña in the third minute of injury time of a game in which Newcastle had twice hauled themselves back into contention, but superbly-taken goals from Laurent Robert and Shearer disguised the poverty of the general performance.

It was unlike any penalty Shearer had taken in the past. Usually, he strikes high and hard; this time he tried to place it in the left-hand corner and saw it scuttle past the post.

"I might have slipped as I ran up, but it was one of the worst I have taken," he admitted. "I don't think we deserved to win and we did not play well. We defended very poorly and when you defend like we did you cannot expect to win. We are determined not to let it slip, but we have thrown points away."

The miss was reminscent of another last-minute penalty failure at the Gallowgate End, against Sunderland in November 2000. Although this one might cause Shearer less pain, it could cost his club financially rather more. For once, St James' did not greet another Sunderland defeat with the usual roar of approval since the Wearsiders' 4-0 reverse at Stamford Bridge put Chelsea within three points of Newcastle, who occupy the fourth and final Champions' League place.

It would be grossly unfair were Shearer to shoulder the blame for this. He had already scored the late equaliser with a typical header, had forced Matteo Sereni into a brilliant one-handed save early in the first half, driving a shot through the narrowest gap, and had endured two disallowed goals that seemed legitimate.

Once again, it was Newcastle's defence that was found wanting and even an Ipswich attack shorn of confidence was able to exploit it. Marcus Bent, who had been dropped for the defeat at Blackburn in midweek, was played onside chasing Marcus Stewart's flick-on four minutes after the interval and, after Robert had equalised with a viciously-struck free-kick, Bent was made a present of the ball on the edge of the area by Andy O'Brien. As Robson – whose 100th Premiership game in charge of Newcastle this was – reflected with a shrug, both times the Ipswich striker clipped the ball through Shay Given's legs.

It should have ensured Ipswich's first league victory on Tyneside since February 1978, when Robson himself was overseeing a successful struggle against relegation at Portman Road while winning the FA Cup. His former club would settle for the first part of the equation, his current one would certainly take the latter, Champions' League or not.

Goals: M Bent (49) 0-1; Robert (60) 1-1; M Bent (63) 1-2; Shearer (88) 2-2.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given 5; Hughes 5, O'Brien 4, Dabizas 4, Distin 6; Solano 8 (Lua Lua 5, 75), Jenas 6 (Dyer 5, 65), Acuña 6, Robert 7; Cort 4 (Ameobi 4, 75), Shearer 7. Substitutes not used: Elliott, Harper (gk).

Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Sereni 6; Makin 6, McGreal 6, Venus 6, Hreidarsson 7; Peralta 4 (Magilton, 83), Holland 6, Wright 5, Clapham 6; M Bent 8 (Armstrong, 86), Stewart 5. Substitutes not used: Couñago, George, Marshall (gk).

Referee: M Riley (Leeds) 4.

Bookings: Newcastle: Dabizas. Ipswich: Venus.

Man of the match: Solano.

Attendance: 51,115.

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