Referee Webb falls for spot of amateur dramatics

Newcastle United 1 Sunderland 1

Derby-day pride, if that is the apt description, came after a fall for Newcastle United yesterday. Three falls in fact: first they fell behind to Djibril Cisse's 33rd-minute strike for Sunderland, then Damien Duff was booked for throwing himself into the visitors' penalty area. And finally, with 22 minutes left, the vertically-challenged Steven Taylor, a ham actor of Crossroads proportions, fell as if hit by rifle-fire when brushed by that well-known brute Steed Malbranque.

Taylor's amateur dramatics are long-established but referee Howard Webb, who was reasonable otherwise, fell for them. Shola Ameobi, "forced" to play by Joe Kinnear, held his nerve to equalise. Three falls but no submission. Even Newcastle players knew it was a ropey decision, according to Sunderland centre-half Danny Collins. Collins revealed an exchange with Duff: "Duff himself said: 'It was a worse dive than mine.' He actually said that to me! It's a terrible decision to be honest. Steed sort of stumbled over himself, Stevie [Taylor] has gone on another yard and fell over."

But Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia has a policy of not complaining and Ameobi's composure meant a first point in three games for Newcastle.

But Kinnear could do with clinching the two defenders he hopes to get in the next 24 hours. Add them to Kevin Nolan and Ryan Taylor, soon-returning players such as Obafemi Martins, Alan Smith and Mark Viduka and Newcastle's squad should possess the solidity to stay up.

Kinnear said that Wigan have agreed a fee of £6m plus Taylor for Charles N'Zogbia; Shay Given's move to Manchester City was expected to be completed by last night for one of those undisclosed fees. City have upped their £5m offer.

The Wearsiders need defensive strengthening, though yesterday Collins and Anton Ferdinand were strong throughout. They gave Sunderland a base from which a more ambitious approach would have yielded a win.

Smoother than the hosts, Kieran Richardson smacked a post on 20 minutes and Nolan's first significant contribution as a Newcastle player was to then clear Kenwyne Jones's follow-up shot off the line. Newcastle were less cohesive but Andy Carroll hit the bar two minutes later.

Then the uncertain relationship between Sebastien Bassong and Fabricio Coloccini was highlighted again. Their misunderstanding allowed Cisse to run onto Dean Whitehead's dink. Cisse hit Steve Harper initially but the rebound was kind and Sunderland were one up.

Newcastle had more purpose after the break and Cisse limped off. George McCartney cleared an Ameobi header from under the bar.

Then came the penalty and after it a feeling that Newcastle would win. They had the pressure but Sunderland had three more chances. Substitute Andy Reid had two but Michael Chopra, on for Cisse, had the best opening.

Beating Coloccini in a tackle, Chopra advanced alone on Harper. It was the 86th minute. At the point where he was about to shoot, however, Chopra chose to pass to Jones. The pass was overhit, a glorious opening disappeared.



Newcastle United (4-4-2) Harper; Taylor, Coloccini (Edgar 90) Bassong, Enrique; Duff, Butt, Nolan, Gutierrez; Ameobi, Carroll (Lovenkrands 83). Substitutes not used: Krul (gk), Donaldson, LuaLua, Geremi, Xisco.

Sunderland (4-4-2) Fulop; Bardsley, Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney; Edwards (Reid 71), Richardson, Whitehead, Malbranque (Leadbitter 90); Cisse (Chopra 55), Jones. Substitutes not used: Colgan (gk), Yorke, Healy, Murphy.

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

Booked: Newcastle Butt, Duff. Sunderland Bardsley, McCartney, Richardson.

Man of the match: Richardson.

Attendance: 52,084.

No regrets: Diouf explains row

El-Hadji Diouf has said he has "no regrets" over the incident involving Anton Ferdinand and the alleged threats from Diouf that led to the Senegal forward leaving Sunderland for Blackburn on Friday. Diouf has also said he has spoken to Ferdinand since the ugly dressing-room confrontation, which followed Sunderland's game against Fulham last Tuesday. "I don't have an issue with him. I don't regret anything. The row with Anton is now over."

Michael Walker

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