Newcastle United 3 Reading 2: Reading are denied by Emre blast

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St James's Park has been largely bereft of both home wins and entertainment this season, but Newcastle emphatically put the record straight on both counts last night to extricate themselves from the bottom three of the Premiership.

Reading, who missed a chance to go third, have made their debut season at this level appear easy, so Newcastle's comeback and Emre's memorable 84th-minute winner provided a reminder how tough the Premiership can be. The visitors deserved a point that would have elevated them above the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal, but they failed to come to terms with the concession of a harsh 57th-minute equaliser, Obafemi Martins scoring his first league goal at St James' Park from the penalty spot after crumbling all too easily as he chased an Antoine Sibierski flick with Ibrahima Sonko.

"It was a critical incident, and I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions," said Steve Coppell, the Reading manager. Intimating that the proximity of the Gallowgate hoards had helped to sway the referee Rob Styles, Coppell added: "My players said categorically there was contact with the ball and that it wasn't a penalty.

"The referee is behind the Newcastle player so there's no way he could see. He's made a judgement, it's a guesstimate and that's not what refereeing is about."

If the penalty award was fortunate, it was evened out when Sibierski had a goal ruled out for a non-existent foul in the build-up to deny the Frenchman a second after his first-half opener.

Clearly benefiting from a blank weekend, Newcastle finished the stronger as Emre dispossessed Reading's goalscorer James Harper on halfway, before striding forwards to curl a delicious winner beyond Marcus Hahnemann from 20 yards.

Emre had been involved in a half-time scuffle in the tunnel with a member of Reading's staff, and the Newcastle manager, Glenn Roeder, said: "I was unhappy with a member of Reading's coaching staff making comments at Emre. He came in irate at half-time and it was only justice he sent them packing with no points. I couldn't really repeat what was said, but there were comments directed at Emre and he had every right to be upset."

Reading held the advantage at the interval despite Sibierski heading home for a second consecutive game, from a Nolberto Solano cross, to mark his 100th Premiership appearance midway through the first-half.

Newcastle's appalling defending gifted Reading the lead in a manic five-minute spell from the hosts. Harper's first arrived on 37 minutes as he shot beyond Shay Given from 18 yards with the aid of a deflection off Solano, after John Oster had run unmolested down the left to deliver a telling cross.

With Newcastle still attempting to regain their composure, Harper struck again after Given punched clear a low cross from substitute Glen Little, who had dispossessed a lethargic Celestine Babayaro, whose abject display saw him targeted by his own fans. The ball fell invitingly for the lurking Reading midfielder, who easily beat Emre's half-hearted challenge to curl a shot into the bottom corner.

Further self-inflicted damage was prevented by Given, who produced an exceptional save to thwart Seol Ki Hyeon, providing the impetus for Newcastle to mount a recovery which lifts them to 15th.

"In a strange way that's the kind of game our fans enjoy, as long as that's the outcome," Roeder added.

Goals: Sibierski (23) 1-0; Harper (37) 1-1; Harper (42) 1-2; Martins (57) 2-2; Emre (84) 3-2

Newcastle United (4-4-1-1) Given; Solano, Taylor, Ramage, Babayaro; Milner, Emre, Butt, N'Zogbia; Sibierski; Martins (Rossi 87). Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Luque, Huntington, Pattison.

Reading (4-4-2) Hahnemann; Murty (Bikey 90), Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Oster, Sidwell, Harper, Hunt (Little, 36); Seol, Doyle (Lita 81). Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Gunnarsson.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Man of the match: Harper.

Attendance: 48,182.