The Newcastle fans who had come in numbers to mock Sam Allardyce ought to have known better. The team the Blackburn manager left behind when he was sacked 12 months ago have won only once away from home all season, and it was always a reasonable bet that the weight of the occasion would be too much for their fragile resolve.
And so it was. After a first half in which they had the edge but could not score, Newcastle conceded a penalty early in the second half and thereafter collapsed, beaten, in the end, comprehensively and finishing with 10 men after Nicky Butt was sent off for two bookable offences. Blackburn lost their central defender Christopher Samba to an eye injury just before half-time, but adapted well.
The result lifts Blackburn out of the bottom three and drags Newcastle closer to it. Joe Kinnear's side began the day in 11th place but ended it only two points above the relegation places. No wonder Kinnear's claim to have been offered a lucrative deal to remain as Newcastle's manager beyond this season has been greeted with scepticism on Tyneside. It can only be conditional, surely, on him keeping them up.
To be fair to Kinnear, he is making no attempt to disguise his team's predicament. "I said from day one that we were in a relegation fight and nothing has changed," he said.
"I thought we were the better side in the first half but every game has a turning point, and it was unfortunate for us that it was a very harsh penalty decision. After that we became very ragged."
Kinnear is hardly the unanimous choice of the supporters to steer Newcastle out of trouble, let alone take them forward. By the second half, having given up on bating Allardyce, those supporters had reverted to hailing Kevin Keegan, as if somehow a third coming of their chosen one could yet put matters right. It only made victory sweeter for Allar-dyce, who will have noted that Newcastle, one year on, are worse off than when he was sent on his way.
"It is a satisfying result," he admitted. "It was very pleasing that we had the defensive qualities to stay in the game, which allowed us to get into theplayers at half-time, to stressthe need to play off Benni[McCarthy] and Jason [Roberts] and not be nervous."
Allardyce emphasised how well he thought that McCarthy and Roberts combined, which will doubtless have significance for anyone who believes Roque Santa Cruz is on his way out of Ewood Park. Yet if anything Blackburn were more incisive once the Paraguayan, recuperating after injury, came off the bench in the second half.
Kinnear had a point in feeling hard done by over the pen-alty, as it was the sort of offence often overlooked by officials. David Edgar did push McCarthy as he clambered to reach a high ball on the hour, however, and Rob Styles, the referee, was not inclined to give the Newcastle defender any margin for error.
Shay Given, who had pulled off a superb save to keep out a McCarthy free-kick moments earlier, had no chance with the penalty, and thereafter Newcastle had little to offer.
Michael Owen, who had tried to impress the watching England manager, Fabio Capello, in the opening half, was rendered a peripheral figure as Roberts celebrated the revival his career is enjoying under Allardyce with two goals.
The first came only five minutes after the penalty, when Morton Gamst Pedersen chested Paul Robinson's long clearance neatly into his path for a stinging first-time shot. The second arrived five minutes from time, when Pedersen skipped into the Newcastle penalty area and set him up for a tap-in.
Referee: Rob Styles
Man of the match: Roberts
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content