Times still tough for Newcastle disunited

Blackburn Rovers 3 Newcastle United 0
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Even as he listened to the insults flung his way by the horde of Geordies occupying the Darwen End, Sam Allardyce still felt a pang of regret. Any impartial observer would consider the former Newcastle manager to be in a far safer place at Ewood Park, yet the sense of unfinished business he carries a year on from his dismissal on Tyneside is likely to niggle away at his professional fulfilment for some while.

He does not shy away from discussing the circumstances in which his long-term rebuilding project at St James' Park was cut short only five months into its first season. "It was hard," he said. "The first 10 games at Newcastle were top drawer, the best start for the club in 10 years and everything was rosy, or at least everybody thought. But maybe that built expectations too high because the Newcastle squad at that stage were playing the best they could, then we ran into a difficult period, just after Christmas when we had a flurry of games with a few injuries and did not get the results we expected."

Now he feels for those supporters, irrespective of what they think of him. "You look at them today, there must have been 6,000 of them. They turn up no matter where with a passion to follow their club in whatever difficulties they go through so you have to have sympathy for them."

He might even have a little for the present incumbent, as the stewardship of chairman Mike Ashley stumbles from one crisis to another. Newcastle looked a good bet to keep Blackburn in the bottom three in the opening half on Saturday, but once they fell behind to a penalty early in the second half, it was not long before their discipline collapsed and their shortcomings surfaced. As Nicky Butt walked for a second yellow card and Joey Barton scuffled with team-mate Jose Enrique, the visiting masses turned their fury towards Joe Kinnear.

"I understand how they feel," Kinnear said. "They were disappointed in the second half and vented their anger. Nine times out of 10 it is the manager who bears the brunt and it was my turn today, but they must realise that these are tough times. They might be chanting for their favourite player, but he [Jonas Gutierrez] hasn't trained this week and I took a risk taking him off the bench."

It all sounded a bit desperate, not least when he pinned the blame on previous managers for leaving him with a squad lacking in back-up. "A club of this size should have two top-class players for every position but we haven't got that."

By contrast, Allardyce had a substitutes' bench featuring David Dunn, Vince Grella and Roque Santa Cruz, all of whom helped swing the contest.

The promise revealed by goalscorers Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts as a front-line partnership inevitably suggested that Santa Cruz could leave for Manchester City and not be missed, although Allardyce says he wants to keep his squad strong rather than weaken it. With or without the Paraguayan, Blackburn look a better bet to stay up than Newcastle, who have won two matches in 11.

Goals: McCarthy pen (61) 1-0; Roberts (66) 2-0; Roberts (86) 3-0.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Ooijer, Samba (Dunn, 45), Nelsen, Warnock; Emerton, Andrews, Tugay (Grella, 59), Pedersen; Roberts, McCarthy (Santa Cruz, 70). Substitutes not used: Bunn (gk), Mokoena, Treacy, Derbyshire.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Edgar, Coloccini, Bassong, Jose Enrique; Duff (Gutierrez, 79), Guthrie, Butt, N'Zogbia (Barton, 74); Carroll, Owen. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Xisco, Taylor, Kadar, LuaLua.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Blackburn Grella, Roberts; Newcastle Edgar, Butt, Barton.

Sent off: Butt (83).

Man of the match: Roberts.

Attendance: 25,583.

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