Old guard put fortress Newcastle back on map

Newcastle United 3 Portsmouth 0
Click to follow
The Independent Football

It remains to be seen whether Patrick Kluivert and Luis Enrique can be persuaded to swap the Nou Camp for Newcastle. In the meantime, as Sir Bobby Robson plans ahead for the next two transfer windows, the old guard are doing a fine job of holding the Toon Army fortress. Gary Speed, 34, and Alan Shearer, 33, kept the revival bandwagon rolling for Newcastle United. The pair's first-half goals set the Magpies on the way to their fourth successive Premiership victory, and their fifth straight win in all competitions.

It was a victory that was never in doubt as Newcastle, playing like their old expansive selves of last season, subjected poor Portsmouth to a free-flowing attacking masterclass. The only consolation for Harry Redknapp's side was that they limited the damage to three goals, Shola Ameobi adding his name to the scoresheet after half-time.

The Pompey chimes have not rung out in celebration of a Portsmouth victory at St James' Park since Clement Atlee was Prime Minister, Orson Welles was starring in The Third Man and the championship trophy was sitting in Fratton Park's display case. Instead of turning the clock back to 1949, Redknapp was happy to turn his back on an afternoon he would want to forget. "That was disappointing," the Portsmouth manager said. "It's the poorest we've been. It's the first time anyone has turned us over."

Unsurprisingly, Sir Bobby was in more buoyant mood. "We're playing with self-belief now," he said. "The first 35 minutes was the best we've played this season. We're starting to play like we did last season."

That much was evident from the start yesterday. Sir Bobby's boys might have led after 27 seconds, but when Laurent Robert played Ameobi through on the left side of the Portsmouth area the England Under-21 striker's angled shot was brilliantly turned wide by the diving Shaka Hislop.

Newcastle came even closer six minutes later when Alan Shearer burst into the right side of their area and was clearly brought down by Boris Zivkovic. It was a stonewall penalty, though neither Paul Durkin nor his close-at-hand assistant could see it.

Still, Shearer and his colleagues kept their afternoon's goal in clear sight, sweeping forward with the kind of speed and proficiency that hallmarked their ascent to third place in the Premiership last season. The chances came thick and fast, and it was a triumph in itself that Portsmouth held out until the 17th minute, when they conceded a superbly crafted goal. Ameobi cut inside from the left, Lee Bowyer produced a sublime flick to Robert, and the Frenchman laid the ball back to the edge of the area, where Speed buried a low, left-foot drive.

It was the Welshman's first goal of the season and it was followed, 10 minutes later, by Newcastle's second of the afternoon. A Bowyer drive struck the hand of the sliding Dejan Stefanovic and Shearer converted from the penalty spot - his ninth goal of the season and his 155th for his hometown club.

It left Portsmouth attempting to play a catch-up game that already seemed beyond them. Not until the 41st minute did they trouble Shay Given, the Irish keeper tipping wide a 20-yard drive by Teddy Sheringham.

The third goal came in the 61st minute, Ameobi watching with as much bemuse-ment as Hislop as his glancing header spun over the the one-time Newcastle keeper, off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.

It was another one of those days for Pompey on Tyneside.

Newcastle United 3 Portsmouth 0
Speed 17, Shearer pen 27, Ameobi 61

Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 52,161

Comments