Newcastle United 3 Wigan Athletic 1: Shearer adds to Wigan's growing pain

De Zeeuw heads the casualty list of nasty knocks
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The Independent Football

Alan Shearer's 204th goal for Newcastle put them level in a contest they looked in danger of losing. His 205th put them two goals clear and on their way to a victory which has raised the managerless Tynesiders to ninth in the Premiership, their highest position of the season. The prospect of European football is starting to loom on their horizon, though not on their captain's. At 35, Shearer is just four games away from retirement.

"He might not have the legs now," the Wigan manager, Paul Jewell, said, reflecting on the damage done by the veteran striker to his own team's European ambitions, "but he has the brains. He was a master playing at centre-forward today. He was too much for our centre-halves."

He was that, though Newcastle and their captain were helped by Wigan losing both of their first-choice centre-halves by the 20th minute - Arjan De Zeeuw, their captain, with a broken collarbone and Matt Jackson with torn knee ligaments. Jewell's side also lost a lead for a seventh match in succession and are now below Newcastle in the table, albeit on goal difference.

By contrast, it was the first time Newcastle had overcome a deficit in a Premiership match since October 2004 - another feather in the caretaking cap of Glenn Roeder. Since his appointment as a temporary successor to Graeme Souness in February, with Shearer as his assistant, the former sweeper has accumulated a tidy pile of victories, eight in 13. His odds might have drifted to 99-1 with one bookmaker but Roeder is worth a punt for the role of permanent manager, should Martin O'Neill decide that his future does not lie on Tyneside.

At 20-1, Jimmy Bullard was a medium-range shot to score the first goal yesterday and he hit the bull's-eye in clinical fashion in the fifth minute. From a range of 25 yards, the Wigan midfielder executed a perfect free-kick, curling it with his right foot into the top left corner of the Leazes End net, much to the delight of the travelling fans and of those who had invested in his ability to land the first blow.

It was followed by a series of blows that forced two changes to each side by the 20th minute. The first to depart was Lee Bowyer, closely followed by De Zeeuw, Shola Ameobi and Jackson. As the holder of a degree in medical science, De Zeeuw would have been ideally qualified to deliver the medical bulletin that was promptly issued to the press, had he not been stricken by that fractured collarbone. A pair of broken teeth (Ameobi), a hamstring pull (Bowyer) and damaged knee ligaments (Jackson) were the other diagnoses.

It was Wigan who suffered most from the subsequent reorganisation. Minus their two centre-halves, they leaked two goals before half-time. First, in the 28th minute, Michael Chopra crashed to the ground under a nominal challenge from Reto Ziegler, presenting Shearer with the opportunity he duly buried from the penalty spot. Eight minutes later, Titus Bramble was granted the freedom of the Wigan penalty area, merely having to nod his head to convert a right-wing corner by Nolberto Solano.

It all left Jewell in a state of considerable agitation. His mood hardly brightened 21 minutes into the second half when Shearer sprang a rusty offside trap, fastened on to a Chopra through ball, rounded John Filan, and steered home the 13th goal of his farewell season. "Alan's enjoying the last few games of his career," Roeder reflected. "He'll be disappointed that he didn't get a hat-trick today. He's got four games left to get one. Don't be surprised if he does."