Newcastle Utd 1 Portsmouth 4: Trouble on Tyneside as Allardyce presides over 11-minute farce

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Not since 1949 have the people of Portsmouth been able to celebrate a league victory at St James' Park. Nine days after that 3-1 triumph on Tyneside, the Council of Europe convened for the first time and it is towards the Continent that this famous old club is looking again.

A fourth successive away win in the Premier League lifted Harry Redknapp's refashioned and revamped team into fourth place and if the prospect of Champions League football at Fratton Park is still very much a pipe dream, then a top-six finish is surely within Pompey's grasp.

In the Zimbabwe international forward, Benjani Mwaruwari, the club boast the top flight's most prolific marksman and only Arsenal have scored more league goals than Portsmouth this season. Yet even Arsène Wenger's free-flowing class of 2007 are no match for Redknapp's men on their travels; a fluid attack has found the net 12 times in seven Premier League games away from home and this comfortable victory could have been far more emphatic.

"We were a bit surprised to be 3-0 up so early on," said Benjani, his eighth league goal of the season sandwiched between a stunning 30-yard drive by the left-back, Noe Pamarot, and an individual effort from the outstanding forward, John Utaka. "I don't know why I'm on such a great streak but I'm the leading scorer at the moment. I hope I'm there at the end of the season."

This is the same Benjani, of course, who endured a barren run of just one goal in 19 games last season after struggling to make an impact following his much heralded £4.1m move from the French club, Auxerre. So there is hope yet for the irascible Alan Smith.

The Newcastle forward was restored to the United team alongside Michael Owen on Saturday, but the former Leeds United favourite has yet to score for his new club in 12 competitive outings. Cautions are far easier to come by for the tempestuous 27-year-old and Smith's yellow card was his sixth of an increasingly fractious campaign.

Perhaps the self-styled wild man of Gallowgate needs guidance from his manager. It worked for Benjani and the African is a player reborn thanks to the enduring Redknapp.

"Harry's special because he knows how to deal with the players," said Benjani. "That can make things so much easier and he helped me so much during my difficult time. He didn't talk to me a lot because if a manager talks too much that can cause problems. He just kept encouraging me all the time. And he kept picking me."

Sam Allardyce, the Newcastle manager, has kept picking Smith, Owen, the midfielder Nicky Butt and the Brazilian defender, Cladio Cacapa, this season but the experienced quartet were four of the greatest culprits on a day when United's performance was nothing short of shambolic. Butt is suspended for Saturday's trip to Sunderland and Cacapa is unlikely to wear a black and white shirt again any time soon after he was hauled off within 18 minutes of this incredible game. Few Newcastle supporters will complain if Smith and Owen are also absent at the Stadium of Light.

"It was a disastrous day," admitted Butt, as he looked back on the meek surrender of an unbeaten home record stretching back to the start of the season. "After the first 12 minutes I was just standing there thinking, 'oh no'. You can't explain it. It was just a feeling of shock.

"When you go in at half-time 3-1 down it's a team thing but you've got to look at yourself first. If you feel like you've got something to say, you say something. But I didn't feel like I had anything to say.

"Sunderland is the best place we could go next weekend. It's a derby and all qualities, to a point, go out of the window. In the first 20 minutes you've got to give it your all, get stuck in and fight. After a defeat like this the bigger the game the better as far as I'm concerned."

Whether Butt's colleagues share their suspended team-mate's opinion is open to question. If Newcastle cannot outwit and outfight Portsmouth at St James' Park then what hope have they of taking anything from a trip to Wearside, where Roy Keane's overly physical Sunderland await?

Portsmouth, by contrast, are simply oozing confidence. "I think we can definitely get into the top six," added Benjani. "Maybe not the top four but we can certainly make Europe."

Goals: Pamarot (8) 0-1; Benjani (9) 0-2; Utaka (11) 0-3; Campbell og (16) 1-3; Kranjcar (71) 1-4.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Taylor, Faye, Cacapa (Rozehnal, 18), Enrique (Martins, 57); N'Zogbia, Butt, Barton, Milner (Emre, 69); Smith, Owen. Substitutes not used: Forster (gk), Geremi.

Portsmouth (4-5-1): James; Johnson,

Campbell, Distin, Pamarot; Utaka, Diop, Davis, Muntari (Pedro Mendes, 87), Kranjcar; Mwaruwari (Kanu, 76). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Lauren, Taylor.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Newcastle United Smith, Butt; Portsmouth Distin, Davis.

Man of the match: Utaka.

Attendance: 51, 490.