Stone leaves Newcastle cold

Newcastle United 1 - Portsmouth 1
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In their thousands they bought black Santa hats trimmed with white fur, a seasonal addition to their black-and-white uniform, so jolly, so merry and all for a good cause.

But afterwards, as they spilled out into the dark, sombre city, the black hats were more funereal than festive. "The top four are quite far away now," said the left-back Olivier Bernard, "and we really have to start winning games to get back before it's too late." Taking just five points from the last 21 has caused a slow fade into 12th place. "Losing against Chelsea last week wasn't the end of the world," Bernard added, "but when you play Portsmouth at home of course you expect to win."

Without Alan Shearer and Patrick Kluivert, Newcastle missed Nicky Butt more. In midfield, Newcastle's flighty youngsters ran around as if they knew the transfer window opens after Christmas.

"The vast majority of the players have given everything," said the manager Graeme Souness. "You could say some of the effort was slightly misguided. We began to run with the ball too much in the second half, and that was in their enthusiasm to be the one who changes the game. When I was young I did the exact same thing. In your determination to do well, you take the extra touch."

In particular, the transfer window is yawning wide for of Laurent Robert. As Souness pointedly said: "He doesn't work hard enough for me. Either in training or in a match."

Joe Jordan, Pompey's caretaker, had all of his players working hard for him once Steve Stone scored a deflected equaliser after Lee Bowyer had thrashed Newcastle into a third-minute lead.

"We had a two minute chat on Friday, and tried to look forward as against looking back," said Jordan. "Harry's [Redknapp] gone, Jim's [Smith] gone, Kevin's [Bond] gone and we need a wee bit of stability and the players will give us that by getting results. They want to retain their Premier League status. Some have waited a few years for it, some have done it all their careers but they all have a smell of what it is like."

Newcastle, though, look forward to festive fixtures against Arsenal and Liverpool with hopes as black as their hats.

Goals: Bowyer, 3 (1-0). Stone, 30 (1-1)

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Taylor, Bramble, Hughes, Bernard; Bowyer (Ambrose, 70), Dyer, Jenas, Milner (Robert, 58,); Ameobi, Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Elliott, O'Brien, Harper (gk)

Portsmouth (3-5-1): Ashdown; Primus, De Zeeuw, Stefanovic; Griffin, LuaLua (Cissé, 87), Stone, Faye, O'Neil, Berger; Fuller (Taylor, 83). Substitutes not used: Hislop (gk), Hughes, Berkovic.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds)

Booked: Newcastle: Taylor. Portsmouth: Stone, Griffin.

Attendance: 51,480

Man of the Match: Stone.

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