Shearer marshals Newcastle's recovery

Fulham 2 Newcastle United 3
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The Independent Online

Fulham's two-month unbeaten record was ruined last night as Newcastle provided another strong indication that they are upwardly mobile. Sir Bobby Robson's side recovered from being 2-0 down after seven minutes to earn a second away win in four days.

The match began half an hour late because of a controlled explosion following a security alert near Loftus Road, but former Newcastle players Lee Clark and Louis Saha wasted no time in putting the home side into a seemingly commanding position, scoring a goal each in the space of a minute. The rest of the evening, however, turned into a demonstration of Newcastle's enduring spirit as they took the points with a performance rounded off by two goals from their enduring captain, Alan Shearer.

It was an inspiring night for Robson, whose first managerial appointment came at Fulham in 1968, two years before his counterpart in the dug-outs, Chris Coleman, was born.

"At 2-0 down we looked as if we were on the way to a whupping," Robson said later. "We had fine performances from a lot of the players, but Shearer was awesome, quite magnificent. He may be in his 33rd year but he has kept his fitness. The goals were only part of the story."

The story began after a quarter of an hour when the former England player - watched from the stands by the England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson - played in Laurent Robert with a one-two which allowed the Frenchman to reduce the deficit. After a period of sustained Newcastle pressure, the climax arrived in the space of six minutes as Shearer turned his side's superiority into tangible reward.

After 50 minutes Shearer scored calmly from the spot after Alain Goma had brought down Shola Ameobi, and six minutes later, following a neatly prodded pass through the defensive cover by Jermaine Jenas, he beat the Fulham keeper, Edwin van der Sar, to the ball and drove a shot into the roof of the net.

Newcastle had arrived minus Norberto Solano - left behind after walking out on the team following his non-selection for Saturday's 1-0 win at Middlesbrough - and, due to minor injuries, Kieron Dyer and Andy Griffin. But, despite rumblings about unrest in the dressing room, Robson's men had also arrived with a record of five clean sheets in their last six games.

That comforting statistic was soon devalued when Clark who left St James' Park in 1997, opened the scoring with a left-footed cross-shot following a pull back by Steed Malbranque. Clark, who made a point of applauding the visiting supporters after the match, refrained from jubilation.

And when Sylvain Legwinski's long free kick was chested down by Saha, who turned past his marker and hammered home a shot from 15 yards out, it seemed that Newcastle, all in grey, were playing like ghosts. By the end of the night, however, they had shown they were body and soul behind their inspired, and inspiring, manager.

Fulham (4-5-1): Van der Sar 5; Leacock 6, Goma 4, Knight 4, Bonnissel 5; Buari 5, Legwinski 6, Clark 6, Pembridge 5, Malbranque 7; Saha 7. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Melville, Inamoto, Hayles, Djetou.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given 6; Hughes 5, O'Brien 7, Bramble 4, Bernard 6; Bowyer 7, Jenas 7, Speed 5, Robert 7 (Ambrose, 87); Ameobi 7, Shearer 8. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Lua-Lua, Caldwell, Viana.

Referee: B Knight (Orpington) 7.

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