Newcastle Utd 2 West Ham Utd 2: Solano steadies ship for Newcastle

West Ham have to settle for draw despite rediscovering art of scoring away from home
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The Independent Football

The meeting of the Hammers and the more recently hammered on Tyneside yesterday brought to mind the Monty Python sketch in which the Yorkshiremen debate who had it worst - the one who lived in a shoebox in t' middle o' t' road or the one sustained by a daily handful of hot gravel. "So you lost your last match 5-1," Alan Curbishley might have said to Glenn Roeder before kick-off time. "Luxury! We lost our last away game 6-0."

By the final whistle it was the West Ham manager who was feeling as sick as an ailing Norwegian Blue. A point here might have been a distinct improvement from a six-goal slaughtering at Reading on New Year's Day - and half as much as the Hammers had previously gained on their Premiership travels this season - but Curbishley had every reason to lament two points lost.

For one thing, his side were 2-0 up and cruising before Newcastle showed any sign of attempting to gain atonement for their midweek 5-1 FA Cup humiliation against Birmingham City. For another, the goal that sparked the Newcastle fightback, two minutes before the interval, had more than an element of contentiousness about it.

As James Milner curled a low shot into the far corner of the net from wide on the right, Scott Parker jumped over the ball from an offside position directly in front of Roy Carroll, the West Ham goalkeeper. From his refereeing vantage point, Uriah Rennie saw nothing wrong, prompting protests and yellow cards for Carroll and Anton Ferdinand - and words of admonishment from Curbishley after Nolberto Solano's second-half penalty cancelled the remainder of West Ham's lead.

"Parker was blatantly offside and clearly interfering with play," Curbishley said. "He was in line with the goalkeeper and the ball. Had it been 2-0 at half-time, it would have been a different game." As it was, the Hammers ultimately had Carroll and the woodwork to thank for holding on to a point from a contest they looked like winning at a canter.

For the first half an hour, Newcastle were not at the Blaydon Races. They were still stunned by their midweek mauling, their most severe at home in the FA Cup since they lost 5-0 to Sheffield United in January 1914 - five months before the decisive shot on target by Gavrilo Princip that precipitated the Great War.

West Ham, with Calum Davenport joining Luis Boa Morte and Nigel Quashie as a transfer-window reinforcement, were invited on to the front foot from the start. Yossi Benayoun and Marlon Harewood spurned clear chances before Carlton Cole broke through with a collectors' piece of a goal.

It came in the 18th minute, Boa Morte hoisting a right-wing corner and Davenport directing a header back across goal to Cole, who lashed in a right-foot shot from close range. It was West Ham's first goal on the road in 906 minutes, since Bobby Zamora scored in a 2-1 defeat Anfield on 26 August. The second was not long in coming, either, as the famine gave way to a relative feast.

Four minutes later George McCartney dispatched a prompting ball from deep on the left and Harewood took advantage of a Titanic-like turn by his marker, Peter Ramage, to poke a right-foot shot past the advancing Shay Given. It was no more - or less - than either side deserved.

It took Newcastle until the 30th minute to muster an attack of note but in first-half injury time they halved the deficit. They had already come close, Alan O'Brien clipping the outside of a post, before Solano fed the ball out to Milner on the right and the winger curled his fateful shot past the evasive Parker and the static Carroll.

The momentum was with the Magpies and eight minutes into the second-half they were level. A Milner free-kick from the right struck Boa Morte's right arm and Solano tucked the penalty low into the bottom left corner.

The visitors did have the ball in the back of the net at the other end in the 66th minute but Rennie ruled that Davenport had impeded Paul Huntington while directing home a header. Newcastle lost Given to a groin injury soon afterwards but finished the stronger, Obafemi Martins diverting a Solano shot on to the woodwork and also forcing a fine reflex save from Carroll in the 90th minute.

Still, for Roeder and his side it was a point of honour commendably gained.