Owen at double to inspire Newcastle

West Bromwich 0 Newcastle United 3
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The Independent Football

It was perhaps as well for Graeme Souness that the refugee from Real Madrid was so clinical. The Newcastle manager had started with Alan Shearer on the bench, which was tantamount to tempting providence given the way the club sacked both Ruud Gullit and Sir Bobby Robson immediately after defeats in which Shearer was relegated to substitute. This time, however, Owen's erstwhile England partner came on to embellish his team's third victory in eight days with the final goal.

His near-post finish - the third time Albion were caught out there in a second half that was as stirring as the first had been soporific - took Shearer to within three goals of Jackie Milburn's record of 200 for Newcastle. He later admitted that he responded to Souness' announcement of a starting XI minus his own name by saying, "You're kidding me", but added diplomatically: "He knows how to get the best out of me, so I'm not going to argue with him."

Souness wore a vindicated smile afterwards. "This is the first time since last November that I've had to make decisions about who to leave out," the Scot said. "I've said all along that once we got our better players fit and on the park, we'd have a different dimension."

For Albion, who came into the game buoyed by wins over Arsenal and at Fulham in the Carling Cup, it felt like a case of back to square one by the end. Bryan Robson, a boyhood Newcastle fan, could not bring himself to attend the post-match press conference. The club captain, Darren Moore, came in to say how "gutted" and "disgusted" he was with the display, stretching credulity by claiming the goals were due to "individual mistakes" rather than the excellence of Owen and Shearer.

A makeshift-looking Albion midfield, in which Junichi Inamoto had his first home start in tandem with Steve Watson, initially gave as good, or as bad, considering the poverty of the entertainment, as they got. Yet the Newcastle duo of Scott Parker and Emre Belozoglu, boasting superior touch, vision and mobility, had already shown signs of establishing ascendancy before Newcastle went ahead early in the second half.

Albion lost possession after kicking off. Shola Ameobi fed Charles N'Zogbia, whose left-wing cross was met by Owen's darting run and beautifully precise right-footed flick into the roof of the net.

Albion should have equalised in the 52nd minute, when Robert Earnshaw inexplicably failed to convert Jonathan Greening's cross from two feet out. In the next 10 minutes, Earnshaw drew a stunning save from Given and fired inches wide, but Newcastle gradually regained control.

Owen, having been thwarted by Tomasz Kuszczak's quick dash from the line from the only real opportunity of the first half, saw a header cleared off the line by Inamoto and a shot blocked by the keeper's chest on the edge of the penalty area. But he was not to be denied and made the points safe with 12 minutes remaining, turning in his fourth goal in six appearances for Newcastle from Kieron Dyer's cross.

Shearer, with a solitary goal to show for his previous 22 league appearances, had joined in the build-up to Owen's second. Two minutes later he got in on the act himself, completing a dire afternoon for Moore by stealing in front of the defender to score.

Goals: Owen (46) 0-1; Owen (78) 0-2; Shearer (80) 0-3.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Scimeca, Curtis Davies, Moore; Clement, Greening (Horsfield, 78), Watson, Inamoto, Carter; Kanu (Ellington, 75), Earnshaw. Substitutes not used: Hoult (gk), Gaardsoe, Chaplow.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Ramage, Boumsong (Bramble, 79), Taylor, Babayaro, Solano, Parker, Emre, N'Zogbia (Dyer, 71), Owen, Ameobi (Shearer, 66). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Faye.

Booked: Newcastle Ameobi.

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

Man of the Match: Owen.

Attendance: 26,216.