Alan Shearer gave up much when opting to go to Newcastle rather than Manchester United five years ago but it guaranteed him an iconic status on Tyneside which was never more fearsomely celebrated than when he scored his 100th goal for the club in the Worthington Cup fourth round last night.
It was not exactly the most difficult of his career; he was probably no more than a yard out when meeting a low ball from Nolberto Solano but it meant everything. The Newcastle captain stood in front of the Leazes End tasting the adulation which gushed down from the towering stands and but for a horribly-deflected free-kick which went just wide at the finish, they would have cheered his hat-trick. Bobby Robson, his eyes misting over when asked to compare him to Jackie Milburn, said Shearer might score another 50 in the three years he believed were left to him, "if you lot in the media stop trying to persuade him to go into management."
Shearer has not won a trophy since spurning Alex Ferguson's offer. Had he gone to Old Trafford he could reckon to have won four championships, plus an FA and European Cup. A Worthington Cup final appearance would be some kind of compensation and this destructive victory over a ragged and sometimes exhausted Ipswich took Newcastle into the last eight and on this evidence they look a reasonable bet for the final.
By the time 45 minutes were up, the conquerors of Internazionale were a beaten, broken mess. There is a village team down the coast from St James' Park which glories in the name of Inter Murton and, frankly, they might have fancied their chances against Ipswich last night. George Burley, who selected every fit player available, did not disagree with the proposition that this third game in five days had been a match too far.
Once Newcastle, driven on in midfield by the inspired figure of Solano who had a hand in all four goals, broke through a tight midfield in the 16th minute, there was no way back. Solano, spurning the more obvious option of Shearer, found Laurent Robert on the left, whose shot thundered through Matteo Sereni for the opener.
The Peruvian, whose future at St James' a few months ago appeared uncertain (and not just because of his eligibility for an EU passport), found his captain wide on the right for the second. It is not generally recognised that Shearer is one of the Premiership's finest crossers of the ball and this one, low and hard, was clipped in by the in-rushing Shola Ameobi, deputising for Craig Bellamy, who was suffering from a virus.
Shearer's 99th goal was rather better than the one that followed the final, sweeping touch to a wonderfully-executed diagonal drive from Solano. There were in fact two Ipswich defenders masking Shearer's run but his positioning has often been too canny for most and so it proved last night. Three minutes later came the century.
The only questions after the interval were whether Shearer would complete his hat-trick and whether Ipswich would be completely humiliated. Darren Bent managed to stick out a long leg to clip Jamie Clapham's through-ball past Steve Harper 13 minutes from the end to restore some East Anglian pride, although Burley must hope the San Siro proves a more forgiving venue than St James'.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Hughes (O'Brien, h-t), Dabizas, Distin, Elliott; Solano, Lee (Acuna, 71), Speed, Robert (LuaLua, 79); Ameobi, Shearer. Substitutes not used: Bassedas, Given (gk).
Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Sereni; Wilnis, McGreal, Hreidarsson, Makin; Wright, Holland, Miller (Gaardsoe, h-t), Clapham; Counago (Naylor, h-t), Armstrong (D Bent, 71). Substitutes not used: Croft, Branagan (gk).
Referee: A Wiley (Burntwood).Reuse content