Newcastle United 3 Wigan Athletic 1: Shearer fires the Newcastle revival

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The Independent Online

Easter on Tyneside and all the talk is of a miraculous resurrection. If football is a religion to those who worship at the church of St James' Park then Alan Shearer is an idol, and his two goals on Saturday sparked typical adulation.

Not only is Newcastle's ageing figurehead benefiting from a new lease of life but his team, seemingly dead and buried barely two months ago, are rising again.

It is a story few would have believed could be true during the final, forgettable days of Graeme Souness's reign. However, a third consecutive League win lifted Shearer's men higher than 10th in the Premiership for the first time this season. A trip to relegated Sunderland today seems to offer another three points.

"Europe did seem a very distant prospect a month or so ago," said Shearer. "And it is typical of Newcastle that we win three games in a row and everyone says we are going to qualify for the Uefa Cup. We certainly have a tough game against Sunderland. They did brilliantly at Old Trafford [on Friday] and probably put in their best performance of the season.

"We go into the game full of confidence but I know they would take great pleasure in taking our scalp and putting a stop to our climb up the table." Too true.

If Newcastle's supporters have one eye on trips to France, Italy and Spain next season, Sunderland fans are already plotting courses to Southend and Stoke. Yet Shearer may find his rivals' defence, buoyed by a clean sheet at Old Trafford, far less accommodating than a Wigan back four which changed three times inside the opening 20 minutes.

Leading through an exquisite Jimmy Bullard free-kick, the visitors then lost two centre-halves, their advantage and the ailing Lee McCulloch before the first half had finished. Arjan De Zeeuw suffered a suspected broken collarbone following a collision with Shearer and Matt Jackson damaged his right knee after a mid-air meeting with the studs of goalkeeper John Filan.

Worse was to follow. First Shearer scored from the penalty spot, after Reto Ziegler had pulled down Michael Chopra, and then Titus Bramble rose to head home Nolberto Solano's corner. Wigan's manager, Paul Jewell, was left pondering tomorrow night's meeting with Aston Villa.

"We have had a wonderful season and I'm not complaining," he said, after Shearer scored United's third 24 minutes from time. "But we just suffered too many injuries to key players and we could be struggling for the Villa game."

Goals: Bullard (5) 0-1; Shearer pen (28) 1-1; Bramble (36) 2-1; Shearer (66) 3-1.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Moore, Bramble, Elliott; Solano, Dyer (Clark, 75), Bowyer (Faye, 9), N'Zogbia; Shearer, Ameobi (Chopra, 18). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Ramage.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Filan; Chimbonda, Jackson (Baines, 20), De Zeeuw (Scharner, 17), Ziegler; Thompson, Kavanagh, Johansson, Bullard; Roberts, McCulloch (Camara, 44). Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Teale.

Referee: U Rennie (South Yorkshire).

Booked: Newcastle Elliott, Moore; Wigan Baines, Kavanagh, Scharner.

Man of the match: N'Zogbia.

Attendance: 52, 302.

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