Unless you support Bolton Wanderers, El Hadji Diouf, a man of apparently few redeeming factors, is a very difficult player to like.
"He's got his faults, as we all have," admitted his team-mate Gary Speed, after the African striker's two goals in 95 seconds propelled their side back up to third in the Premiership. After recently suggesting that he sees Bolton as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, he perhaps owed his employers a performance, which he duly produced.
It is just a shame he cannot stick to the football, as a series of snide dives and inflammatory over-celebrations in front of the Newcastle fans - the player also had to be restrained from an tunnel altercation following his substitution - make the Senegalese a difficult character to stomach.
"He's a good lad, great in the dressing-room," added Speed, in mitigation. "He's always laughing and joking and winding the lads up." He managed the winding-up part quite easily with the Newcastle fans, whose manager, Glenn Roeder, was rather less charitable in his appraisal. "Most weeks players get frustrated with him. His reputation goes before him. It's not as if it's something new that our lads have experienced today."
Newcastle went ahead through Shola Ameobi's disputed 19th-minute penalty, the first League goal Bolton had shipped in 384 minutes, but had not heeded defender Peter Ramage's programme piece, entitled "We must learn to hold the lead". This was the third consecutive time they have taken the lead at home, but have only a point to show for it.
"That comeback's a measure of how far we've come on this season," said Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager. "We upped the tempo in the second half and put Newcastle under more pressure and it worked an absolute treat."
Having benefited from an erring assistant referee in the win over Liverpool, Bolton were this time on the wrong end of a dubious decision as Glenn Turner ruled that Abdoulaye Faye had halted an Obafemi Martins cross with his hand.
Ameobi sent Jussi Jaaskelainen the wrong way. Of the four Premiership goals Bolton have conceded this season, three have been penalties. "It was dubious," Speed said. "It's one of those where if you are at home then you get them."
With such defensive frailties, Newcastle are a team in dire need of a second goal to wrap up a victory, and it should have arrived as Ramage was faced with an open goal from six yards as Ameobi knocked down Damien Duff's centre. The defender found only the Gallowgate. "It would have been a different game had that gone in," Roeder said.
Bolton fully exploited the reprieve. Nicolas Anelka embarrassed the floundering Stephen Carr to square for Diouf to level on 55 minutes, Titus Bramble having neglected his marking duties to leave the striker with ample time and space to apply a close range finish.
A first Bolton win here since 1959 was sealed when Kevin Davies beat Bramble and Ramage in the air to flick on an Ivan Campo free-kick for the lurking striker, who nodded in his third goal of the season.
"It was disastrous defending," Roeder said, after seeing his side pick up just four points from their last seven games. "We're shooting ourselves in the foot with unacceptable defending. The only thing you can do is get back to the training ground and work hard," he added, echoing increasingly hollow sentiments similar to the previous home game, which have clearly gone unheeded.
Goals: Ameobi (pen) 1-0 (19), Diouf 1-1 (55) and 1-2 (57).
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Carr, Bramble, Moore, Ramage; Solano (N'Zogbia 67), Parker, Emre (Rossi 84), Duff; Ameobi, Martins. Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Sibierski.
Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Faye, Meite, Ben Haim; Davies, Nolan, Campo, Speed, Diouf (Giannakopoulos 87); Anelka. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Fortune, Vaz Te, Tal.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Booked: Newcastle: Solano, Emre, Moore. Bolton: Speed, Diouf, Nolan.
Man of the match: Diouf.
Attendance: 48,145.Reuse content