Jermaine Jenas left Tyneside last August complaining that living in Newcastle was like "being in a goldfish bowl". It does happen to be the home-town of Billy the Fish, the half-man, half-fish goalkeeper of Viz fame. Not that there was a comic-book hero's return for Jenas at St James' Park yesterday. Quite the opposite.
Nine minutes into the second half the former Newcastle midfielder was presented with a sitter at the Gallowgate End, courtesy of a stray Robbie Elliott header. He could not miss. Or so it seemed. The Tottenham No 28 sliced his shot into the side-netting.
It was that sort of afternoon for Jenas and for Spurs. Having got themselves into clear water in fourth place in the Premiership, Tottenham looked like fish out of water on Tyneside yesterday. Trailing to a Lee Bowyer goal after 66 seconds, they briefly gained parity, thanks to Robbie Keane, but were effectively swamped by half-time. Shola Ameobi and Alan Shearer (from the penalty spot) got the other goals for Newcastle, though it was Nolberto Solano who was the chief architect of Tottenham's downfall.
The Peruvian was at his prompting best as the managerless Magpies regained their winning touch, ending a run of four defeats under Glenn Roeder's caretakership. Martin O'Neill likes his wingers and in the little man from Lima, and in Charles N'Zogbia, Newcastle have two first-class wide-men with which to tempt their first-choice managerial candidate.
As for Martin Jol, Tottenham's head coach, it was a bad day all round. Spurs finished a man short, Michael Dawson departing just after the hour mark following a second bookable offence. "It wasn't our day," Jol lamented. "J J [Jenas] had a 100 per cent chance to score, maybe more. It was an awful game for us. We made all the mistakes you can make."
Not that Jol's men could have done much else about the move that left them one down after a minute. It was a brilliantly crafted Newcastle goal, N'Zogbia working the ball inside from deep on the left, Shearer wrong-footing the opposition with a step-over, Solano feeding a pass back to N'Zogbia, and the French winger squaring a low cross for Bowyer to apply the side-footed finish.
It was a first Premiership goal in 14 months for the one-time England midfield man and it might have been swiftly followed by another two. First a tug from Edgar Davids and the feet of Paul Robinson conspired to deny Bowyer. Then Davids took the sting and the direction out of a right-foot piledriver.
At that stage, with 11 minutes gone, the Magpies were flying. Their wings were clipped eight minutes later, though. Aaron Lennon jinked past Stephen Carr and cut back an exquisite cross from the left to the edge of the six-yard box - an invitation Keane accepted to head in the equaliser.
Newcastle, to their credit, were soon back in the attacking groove - and in the lead. Once again Bowyer and Solano were instrumental in the move - the former supplying a right-wing ball to the latter, whose right-foot drive proved too strong for Robinson to grasp. Ameobi swept in the loose ball, making it 2-1 to Newcastle with 25 minutes on the clock.
Five minutes later it was 3-1. A Solano ball down the right drew a push from Davids that floored Bowyer and presented Shearer with a chance from the spot. The Newcastle captain duly delivered, sending Robinson the wrong way to claim goal No 203 for his home-town club.
Even then Spurs had their opportunities to turn the tide. In first-half injury time Keane smacked a right-foot drive off Shay Given's bar. Then, nine minutes into the second-half, came the Jenas howler, followed by a Keane grass-cutter that clipped the outside of a post.
To compound Tottenham's plight, they were a man down from the 61st minute, Dawson earning a second yellow card for manhandling Shearer. Mido talked himself into the book for disputing Mike Dean's decision. Still, after Robinson saved brilliantly from Peter Ramage, there could be no argument about the final score. The Toon Army chorused for the benefit of the crestfallen Jenas, "Three-one to the goldfish bowl."Reuse content