Toon to Souness: message understood

Newcastle United 3 - Blackburn Rovers 0
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Perhaps his loyalties were torn by the result, but Newcastle's new manager, Graeme Souness, could only have been delighted by the emphatic nature of his team's victory over Blackburn, the club he left last week. Alan Shearer, Andy O'Brien and an own goal by Garry Flitcroft provided a clear-cut win on which Souness will be eager to build.

Perhaps his loyalties were torn by the result, but Newcastle's new manager, Graeme Souness, could only have been delighted by the emphatic nature of his team's victory over Blackburn, the club he left last week. Alan Shearer, Andy O'Brien and an own goal by Garry Flitcroft provided a clear-cut win on which Souness will be eager to build.

Souness's position in limbo on "gardening leave" meant this match was a rarity in that neither team had an official manager on duty. Since Souness is bringing with him a trio of his backroom staff, Phil Boersma, Alan Murray and Dean Saunders, it fell to that prince of caretakers, Tony Parkes, to take charge of Blackburn. It was his sixth such spell, involving 71 matches.

For Newcastle, the touchline job was taken on by John Carver, assistant to Sir Bobby Robson, who pronounced it "the proudest day of my life". It could also prove his last act for the club when Souness takes over the manager's chair tomorrow. There should also be an early test for the new man's comments that respect and dedication are what he is looking for from his players. The front page headlines in yesterday's local paper told of his striker, Shola Ameobi, fined £1,000 for speeding, having no car insurance and failing to turn up in court to answer the charge on Friday. The six points added to his driving record are, as it happens, more than Newcastle have picked up on the pitch so far this season.

Blackburn were without their suspended defender, Lorenzo Amoruso, and Parkes chose to use his moment in the spotlight by picking Flitcroft in midfield. With Nicky Butt absent because of hamstring trouble, the hand of Souness seemed evident in the selection of Kieron Dyer on the right wing, a position he refused to play under Robson. Dyer's name was booed when it was announced in the line-ups, but these turned to gasps of amazement and then cheers as Dyer hurtled around, disputing possession and flying into tackles.

In fact, all the Newcastle side were in supercharged mode. Blackburn were overrun by an irresistible blend of skill and exuberance and found themselves two goals down after little more than a quarter of an hour. It could have been four, since the referee, Dermot Gallagher, rejected one seemingly certain penalty and another which would have found favour among many of his fellow officials.

Lee Bowyer, linking with Shearer and Craig Bellamy, got into the box and was brought down by Dominic Matteo as he turned past the Blackburn defender. Newcastle's rage was rapidly muted by the gift of a goal. It followed a surging Bellamy run which forced a corner. Jermaine Jenas took it on the right and when the ball dropped in the six-yard box it was turned into his own net by Flitcroft.

Laurent Robert, also unveiling unexpected commitment, thundered a free-kick past Brad Friedel's right-hand post as Blackburn struggled to retain shape. They were all over the place against another slick build-up and as Bowyer went to strike a slow-rolling rebound he seemed to be nudged from behind by Flitcroft. Again, home fury at the referee was stilled by a goal, a classic Newcastle strike this time. Bellamy got to the left byline and crossed to the far post. Friedel managed to push Shearer's header against an upright, but such was the force of the effort that it bounced in.

Blackburn managed to get into the game towards half-time, with efforts from Brett Emerton and Jon Stead testing Shay Given. Paul Dickov also tumbled in the penalty area, but was also out of luck with Mr Gallagher in his appeal. Though their pace slackened in the second half, enabling Blackburn to cope rather better at the back, the visiting defence was almost breached as Bellamy flicked on a long free kick to Shearer, only for the captain to be frustrated by Friedel's excellence in turning the shot over the bar.

Blackburn kept working away, with Dickov making the usual pest of himself, but their feebleness in conjuring openings made things simple for a Newcastle defence which may soon be reinforced, according to rumour, by the arrival of the former Manchester United centre-back Ronnie Johnsen.

The tiring Bellamy was replaced by Ameobi, who was at once threatening to score. However, seconds after Dickov's boot just failed to connect with Stead's downward header, Newcastle claimed their third with seven minutes left. Robert, who had wasted a succession of corners by not obtaining enough elevation, slid a free-kick from the right to the far side, where the ball was turned in for O'Brien to force his way past a defender and prod home from an angle.

Four minutes from the end Dyer was taken off, to applause, and there was time in the added minute for the home crowd to welcome the French teenager Charles N'Zogbia from Le Havre.

Comments