Shearer still a step ahead of his No 1 critic

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The Independent Online

Golden boy Mary Poppins. Call him what you will. Alan Shearer is heading for the Battle of Britain with a better goalscoring record than Andy Cole.

Golden boy Mary Poppins. Call him what you will. Alan Shearer is heading for the Battle of Britain with a better goalscoring record than Andy Cole.

The penalty kick the England captain converted 90 seconds into the second-half at St James' Park yesterday took his tally for the season to 12 in the Premiership, one more than his Old Trafford critic, and 14 in all club competitions - again, one more than Cole.

It proved sufficient to lift Newcastle United out of the bottom three, though not with the victory it promised at the time Shearer steered his right foot shot past the diving Paul Gerrard. Having gained tangible reward for their clear superiority, Bobby Robson's boys proceeded to lose the plot - and, with it, two points.

With the Magpies all in a flap at the back, Kevin Campbell stole in between Nicos Dabizas and Alessandro Pistone to earn Everton a draw, meeting Nicky Barmby's cross from the right with a goalscoring diving header.

It was a fair result, the Toffeemen having extricated themselves from the sticky situation of a half-hearted first-half performance to dictate the bulk of the second period.

Not that Robson was a happy manager. "We should have won," he said. "We had a marvellous first-half - I would say the best we've played since I came here. But for a 20- minute period after we scored we were really flagging.

"I can understand why because this game should have been on Monday. We played on Thursday night. That extra 24 hours would have been vital for us. It's so little time to recover, the extra day is very important. It affected us and we have suffered from that one day."

There were no signs of heavy-leggedness in the first-half, which belonged to Newcastle - and, to a great extent, to the player in their ranks who sports an Everton tattoo on his left arm.

Duncan Ferguson may have been hamstrung for much of his 49 weeks at Newcastle but the old Evertonian looked every penny an £8m man as he assumed the bulk of the line-leading duties and dropped deep to keep moves in motion with his precise distribution.

It was Shearer, though, who enjoyed the best chance before the break. Put clear of the Everton defence by Nolberto Solano's superbly-measured through-ball, he dispatched a stinging right-foot shot that would have beaten a lesser goalkeeper than Gerrard, who blocked it with a first-class reflex save.

It was a different story in the second minute of the second-half, when the Everton keeper gave Shearer his penalty chance by hauling down the hugely influential Gary Speed. The tide, however, quickly turned in Everton's favour.

David Weir fired a snap-shot off Steve Harper's right-hand post and three minutes after the equaliser the Everton bench were up in arms when Campbell flicked the ball against Didier Domi's left arm. Mike Reed judged the handling offence to have been unintentional but Walter Smith did not see it that way. "It should have been a penalty," the Everton manager said.

Luck, however, finished on Smith's side, Kevin Gallacher's 84th minute drive cannoning off Gerrard's right-hand post.

Goals : Shearer pen (47) 1-0; Campbell (62) 1-1.

Newcastle United (4-3-1-2): Harper; Pistone, Dumas, Dabizas, Domi; Solano, Lee, Speed; Gallacher; Shearer, Ferguson (Maric, 85). Substitutes not used : Marcelino, Hughes, Glass, Karelse (gk).

Everton (4-5-1): Gerrard; Dunne, Weir, Unsworth, Ball (Johnson, h-t); Cleland, Hutchison, Collins, Pembridge, Barmby; Campbell. Substitutes not used: Clarke, Ward, Jevons, Simonsen (gk).

Bookings: Newcastle : Speed, Dumas; Everton: Cleland, Barmby, Dunne, Gerrard, Johnson, Unsworth.

Referee : M Reed (Birmingham).

Man of the match : Speed.

Attendance : 36,164.

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