It was the 51 minutes of their lives. A period of parity between the artisans of Yeading and the millionaires of Newcastle when the 123 league places between the two clubs fell away and left us with a tense, physical FA Cup tie between two sets of footballers divided only by the lives they go back to today. For Johnson Hippolyte's team, defeat was the end of their dream but it only tells a small part of their story.
Yeading succumbed to a Lee Bowyer goal that finally established Newcastle's supremacy after 51 minutes of embarrassment for the Premiership side. Tackled, hustled, challenged and kicked, Graeme Souness's team were substantially matched by their Ryman Premier League opponents.
"Their game plan was not to beat us at football but to test how we handled the physical side," Souness said. "We lost too many 50-50 balls in the first half." As they took the applause from a generous stand full of Newcastle fans, Yeading could look back with pride on some predictions from their manager which had come to pass. Newcastle's Titus Bramble did find himself under pressure, so much so that Souness admitted he substituted the defender to prevent him from being dismissed after a first-half caution. And David Clarke, the club captain and self-employed property developer, was outstanding in midfield.
But no one gave more than goalkeeper Delroy Preddie who broke a finger when he tipped away a Jermaine Jenas shot on 20 minutes and carried on without complaint. Preddie was on a deal with a tabloid newspaper that would see him win a brand new car to replace his £800 L-reg Ford Escort if he held out for 90 minutes. As the minutes ticked by he must have thought that the prospect of a life improved by power steering and climate control looked a distinct possibility.
Up until the goal, Yeading had been Newcastle's equal in every department. They were brave enough not to play two strikers, and Clarke, Davis Haule and Darti Brown smothered Jenas' creative impulse in midfield. Craig Bellamy reflected on the shape of his side and admitted that Newcastle, with only one striker, had "played into the hands of Yeading", but also recognised the hunger of an opposition who refused to be overwhelmed.
"I thought we forced and rushed our chances in the first half, but we knew what we were up against" Bellamy said. "It doesn't matter who you are up against in the Cup, or where they are from, it is a chance of a lifetime for these lads. They are going to give everything and that's what makes the Cup so great. I've worked very hard to become a Premiership player but on a day like this reputation counts for nothing."
Shola Ameobi made the first goal out on the right wing. Escaping from three challenges, he upset the disciplined balance of Yeading's team. Bellamy darted down the right side of the area to pick up Amoebi's pass and cut the ball back to Bowyer who was unmarked at the back post. The second goal came just after the hour when Ameobi nodded home substitute Darren Ambrose's free-kick from the right.
"We showed we were a good side and mentally very strong," Hippolyte said. "What made a difference in the end was fitness. Apart from the birth of my kids this has been the proudest day of my life. They were right to bring Bramble off because at the rate he was going he could have been sent off. We are proud of ourselves and rightly so - our performance showed the value of grassroots football."
Only with a minute left did Yeading genuinely threaten the Newcastle goal when Brown's drive was tipped wide by Steve Harper. The confident swagger of Yeading's striker D J Campbell, a little man with a big reputation around the Ryman League, did not make a great impression on Jean-Alain Boumsong, the £8m signing making his Newcastle debut.
In the end, there was plenty for Yeading to celebrate. Preddie got the new car, if only for three months. His team-mates helped themselves to their opponents' shirts and the assistant manager, Derek Brown, got Bellamy's boots for his son. Next Saturday Yeading face Harrow Borough at home. Their 51 minutes of fame are up, but what they achieved will endure much longer.
Goals: Bowyer (51) 0-1; Ameobi (61) 0-2.
Yeading (3-4-1-2): Preddie; Saroya, Leach, Stanley; Barima (Behzadi, 74), Clarke, Brown, Protain (Woodruffe, 77); Haule; Telemaque (Quamina, 84), Campbell. Substitutes not used: Newby (gk), Kleboe.
Newcastle United (4-3-2-1): Harper; Taylor, Boumsong, Bramble (O'Brien, h-t), Babayaro; Bowyer, Jenas, N'Zogbia (Ambrose, 39); Robert (Milner 69), Bellamy; Ameobi. Substitutes not used: Given (gk), Hughes.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Booked: Yeading: Protain. Newcastle: Bramble.
Man of the match: Clarke.
Attendance: 10,824.Reuse content