Shearer raises the Tyneside tempo

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The sliding shot with which Stefano Eranio unintentionally set Newcastle United on their way to victory was not the most spectacular own goal at St James' Park last night. The Italian midfielder's 41st-minute gaffe was mundane in comparison to Freddie Fletcher's effort.

The sliding shot with which Stefano Eranio unintentionally set Newcastle United on their way to victory was not the most spectacular own goal at St James' Park last night. The Italian midfielder's 41st-minute gaffe was mundane in comparison to Freddie Fletcher's effort.

In an attempt to placate the mutineering members of the Toon Army, Newcastle's chief executive chose page seven of the programme as a platform for conciliation. Considering step three in the list of protest actions outlined by the Save Our Seats campaigners was a boycott of the matchday magazine, Fletcher was wasting both time and space in informing those who did read his message: "We have heard the frustration and distress felt by many of you over the changes and we are now exploring every possible option again to make sure that season-ticket holders affected are treated as fairly as possible."

Judging by the piles of unsold programmes and the number of St James' Park regulars who stood for the opening 20 minutes, many more than the 4,000 affected by the decision to designate their seats as £1,350-a-season corporate berths - a price hike of £862 - consider the Newcastle board are selling loyal followers down the Tyne.

In an impressive show of unity, some 90 per cent observed both the stand-up protest and the call to leave club colours at home. Oh, yes, and their team gained the victory they required - courtesy of Eranio and Alan Shearer - to climb out of the Premiership relegation zone for the first time this season.

It must have seemed just like old times for Jim Smith, whose 27-month tenure as manager at St James' Park coincided with the stirring of unrest among disenchanted supporters by John Hall and his campaigners for boardroom change. The difference was in those days Newcastle could not give tickets away; crowds dipped below the 10,000 mark. The current furore is about fighting for seats in an expanded 51,000-capacity stadium.

In danger of being lost in the squabbling was a desperate need for both Smith's Derby and Bobby Robson's Newcastle to put another point or three on the Premiership board. And, for the benefit of those who remained seated, it was Bobby's boys who made the more impressive start.

It did take them nine minutes to get into their attacking stride but once they gathered momentum the chances flowed in quick succession. It was Warren Barton who paved the way for the first of them. His right-wing cross found Kieron Dyer on the six-yard line, via the head of Alan Shearer, and the young Englander tested Russell Hoult with a header of his own.

Dyer, Kevin Gallacher and Gary Speed were all narrowly off target as Newcastle went for the jugular, though not as far off the mark as the stadium announcer, who, in appealing for the supporters standing in front of the disabled section of the Sir John Hall Stand to take their seats, merely succeeded in bringing the rest of the crowd back to their feet in protest.

The midway point in the first-half had passed by this stage and still those conspicuously clad in black-and-white were on top. Speed and Robert Lee were dictating the central midfield flow but it was Silvio Maric, a 37th-minute replacement for the limping Dyer, who forged the breakthrough four minutes before half time.

The Croatian fed the ball out to Nolberto Solano on the right side of the Derby penalty area and the Peruvian's angled ball into the goalmouth was deflected past Hoult by the hapless Eranio.

Without a win in five Premiership matches and dropping into the nether region of the table, Derby needed inspiration from somewhere after the break. Instead, they were two goals behind by the 53rd minute.

Released by Lee on the right, Solano swept the ball into the six-yard box, where Shearer side-footed it past Hoult - the England captain's 12th goal in eight games.

It sent the Toon Army home happier than when they had arrived, though none would have paid £71 for the 90-minute pleasure.

Newcastle United (4-3-1-2): Given; Barton (Hughes, 56), Marcelino, Dabizas, Pistone; Solano, Lee, Speed; Dyer (Maric, 37); Gallacher (Ferguson, 81), Shearer. Substitutes not used: McClen, Harper (gk).

Derby County (4-4-2): Hoult; Eranio, Laursen, Schnoor, Dorigo (Prior, 83); Morris (Burton, 58), Delap, Johnson, Powell; Burton, Baiano (Christie, h-t). Substitutes not used: Carbonari, Knight (gk).

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

Comments