Owen removes albatross of despondency from Souness's neck

Newcastle United 1
Manchester City 0

A fortnight ago Graeme Souness, amid rumblings of imminent unemployment, was a man in need of a sturdy shoulder and a sympathetic ear. But, as guests invited to conduct a well patronised collection, the charity bucket-carriers soon realised that their counselling services would not be required.

That is not to suggest Newcastle are without their problems, burdened as they are with a defence in which Jean-Alain Boumsong performs the job of two men - Laurel and Hardy.

But in a sport notorious for adopting and discarding apparently life-and-death issues with a goldfish-like memory span, back-to-back victories are often treated as the dawn of a new epoch.

The £50m invested by Souness inside nine months has been the catalyst for Newcastle's upturn in fortunes. The centrepiece of that spree, the England striker Michael Owen, collected more albatrosses than the Ancient Mariner at a recent pro-am golf tournament. But the club's record signing returned to an activity at which he is even more adept with his second goal in three starts securing a first home League win in six months.

After his 18th-minute winner, Owen was candid enough to admit that he should have at least doubled his tally. "I would have felt guilty had we not won with the chances I had," he said.

With Scott Parker and Lee Bowyer impressing in midfield, and Emre, Kieron Dyer and Nolberto Solano all soon to return, the required flow of ammunition to Owen and Alan Shearer is likely to increase. It is clearly a supply line that needs to be plentiful. Shearer will have gone almost a year without scoring from open play at home in the Premiership by the time Sunderland offer the next opposition next month.

Stuart Pearce thought Newcastle's half-full glass was rather more half-empty.

"No disrespect, but we showed them too much respect," said the Manchester City manager, far from circumspect about his team's performance in the wake of a third defeat in seven days. "I could sniff it. It took me about two minutes to sense we weren't up for it. You can't start off going through the motions like that, because it's difficult to pick it up."

His side's failure to exploit Newcastle's clear defensive deficiencies merely compounded the frustration for Pearce, returning to one of his former clubs.

"There was nothing there for us to worry about," he said. "They were a side waiting to give us a result but we weren't strong enough to go and take it.

"It was like a boxing match, like, 'Is that your best shot, is that the only problem you're going to cause us'?

"If I had £50m to spend on players I'd back us to finish above them," he added, with a green-eyed tinge that might have the Samaritans in Manchester dishing out advice on dealing with feelings of an overly covetous nature.

Goal: Owen (18) 1-0.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Boumsong, Bramble, Babayaro; Bowyer (Faye, 72), Clark, Parker, N'Zogbia; Owen, Shearer (Ameobi, 77). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Elliott, Moore.

Manchester City (4-5-1): James; Onuoha, Distin, Dunne, Thatcher; Sun, Barton, Reyna, Sibierski (Croft, 77), Musampa (Ireland, 61); Vassell. Substitutes not used: De Vlieger (gk), Sommeil, Jordan.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

Booked: Manchester City Dunne, Barton.

Man of the match: Parker.

Attendance: 52,280.

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