Newcastle left praying for miracle

Newcastle United 0 Fulham 1

All this afternoon lacked was that underground voice that accompanies the trailers for Hollywood blockbusters. As the mood changed at St James' Park during another bewildering 90 minutes, the weather changed too. As the blue sky at kick-off disappeared, and with it any blue-sky thinking, on came the clouds, straight from the Old Testament, mournful and brooding and loaded with a sharp, cold rain that may have contained acid. St James' became a temple of doom. It was dramatically, apocalyptically symbolic.

On the wet white line he can no longer cross stood Alan Shearer. He was drenched in disappointment. Newcastle had kicked off with their destiny at their own feet; by five o'clock it was in the hands of someone else. The club had seemed set to confirm Shearer's permanence; now the wait goes on.

To avoid relegation, all Newcastle had to do was to match Hull City's results over the last two games of the season. They have fallen at the first and now the onus is on Newcastle to recover, to draw at Aston Villa next Sunday, or win, and for Manchester United to send out a strong enough side to Hull to ensure Phil Brown's side do not get the victory that will condemn Newcastle regardless. Sunderland may yet be in the mix.

There will be much scrutiny of Sir Alex Ferguson's team at Hull. But this is not about Ferguson. It is about Newcastle, a club that beckons, seduces, then frustrates and sours. Newcastle sold out their allocation for Villa Park weeks ago. But for all the colour and noise Newcastle supporters will take with them to Birmingham, they will be accompanied by a team unworthy of mid-table mediocrity.

The explanation for that is long and will be deconstructed over this week and those that follow, but there was a glimpse at the roots of Newcastle's shambles in the No 18 shirt of Fulham on Saturday. Aaron Hughes is not a glamorous footballer. Hughes lacks the desire for celebrity that is prevalent elsewhere. He just gets on with the job and here that was subduing Mark Viduka. But for a second in the 50th minute, Hughes did that admirably and without fuss. You can see why Fulham value Hughes, why he has been selected 43 times by Roy Hodgson this season.

Newcastle know that value too late. Hughes made his Newcastle debut aged 17 against Barcelona in the Nou Camp. He went on to make almost 300 undemonstrative appearances over nine seasons before Graeme Souness sold him to Villa. Souness bought Jean-Alain Boumsong instead. At the time of Hughes' departure it was pointed out that Newcastle were not revelling in sensible, capable defenders to sell one cheaply. But there you go.

After Diomansy Kamara's 41st-minute winner illustrated afresh shocking Newcastle defending, and after the referee Howard Webb had disallowed Viduka's equaliser, Hughes was the only Newcastle player, present or former, to speak. He did not crow.

"I'm happy to have won the game, of course I am," Hughes said. "But I'm really sorry that things have turned out as they have. No disrespect to Aston Villa, or any other club, but I just hope Newcastle go there next week and get the result they need. I can't imagine that club in the Championship, the size of the stadium, those amazing fans."

But it does not require a vivid imagination to see Newcastle dropping. While Fulham were tight and neat, Newcastle were sloppy. Jonas Gutierrez has had a few bad games and this was another. Ditto Danny Guthrie, Kevin Nolan and Nicky Butt.

The talked-up central defence of Sébastien Bassong and Steven Taylor were split on Kamara's goal and Bassong was then dismissed for his pull and trip on Kamara on the hour. When Newcastle did manage to press, the Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer made telling saves from Obafemi Martins and Butt.

Shearer's feat in his 45 days in charge was to string together as many loose ends as possible. Here they unravelled again. This will be a long week on Tyneside, to seal a rambling season. Few foresee it ending happily.

Newcastle United (4-4-2) Harper; Beye, Taylor, Bassong, Duff; Guthrie (R Taylor 62) Butt, Nolan, Gutierrez (Lovernkrands 76); Martins, Viduka (Carroll 80) Substitutes not used: Krul (gk), Coloccini, Smith, Ameobi.

Fulham (4-4-2) Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Gera, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey; Nevland (Johnson 76) Kamara Substitutes not used: Zuberbühler (gk), Baird, Kallio, Gray, Dacourt, Zamora.

Booked: Fulham Murphy, Nevland, Dempsey.

Sent off: Bassong (60).

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

Man of match: Hughes.

Attendance: 52,114.

News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker