Newcastle find killer instinct

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The Independent Online

Sheffield Wednesday 0 Newcastle United 2

David Pleat did not exactly go into this match with his hands over his eyes but he did the next best thing. He feared what he might see if he watched Newcastle in midweek and yesterday he had his misgivings fully justified as the Tynesiders swept to the top of the Premiership with their third win in three matches.

It was a thrilling performance from Newcastle who suggested that more than the Sheffield Wednesday manager will be depending on blind faith at the end of the season. As the final whistle blew they were toying with their opponents, having risen above the other 100 per cent team, Leeds, by dint of their eight goals scored and one conceded.

Yesterday they hardly put a foot wrong against a side good enough to defeat the champions, Blackburn, last Wednesday. Peter Beardsley was at his waspish, eager best but even the England striker was eclipsed by David Ginola whose light shone brightest even in the neon surroundings of Newcastle's football.

The pounds 2.5m buy from Paris St- Germain has been compared to his fellow countryman, Eric Cantona, but even Old Trafford's enfant terrible would have had difficulties matching Ginola yesterday. He scored an outstanding goal, played a part in Newcastle's second and bewitched the Sheffield defence throughout. His parting gesture was as a playmaker behind the back four.

"David was the outstanding individual and his was the decisive goal," Kevin Keegan, the Newcastle manager, said. "We were playing some nice football, pushed the ball around well, but I was worried we lacked that killer instinct."

The first half was goalless but brimming with interest. Wednesday retained the sweeper system that served them well against Blackburn, yet if that implies a defensive mentality, it was not evident on the pitch.

Their first-half performance was epitomised by their pounds 1.5m signing, Marc Degryse, whose bright beginning included a shot just wide after 20 seconds and who provided a delicately weighted cross just before half-time that Mark Pembridge met with a fierce header. Only an admirable piece of agility by Shaka Hislop kept the ball out.

Nothing tangible had been accrued from Newcastle's superiority, however, until Ginola imposed himself on the proceedings in the 53rd minute. Beardsley took a short corner from which the Frenchman cut inside and then cracked a fierce drive from the apex of the area into the far corner.

It was an outstanding strike but one that was surpassed 21 minutes later. Ginola played a pass down the left wing, Beardsley went round the outside and then curled a shot from a narrow angle that hit the far post and went into the net in the opposite corner.

Pleat was not sure Beardsley had meant to score, but he did concede he was one of the rare talents capable of pulling it off if it was intended. "I think he's a gifted individual," he said, "But I wish he'd retired by now."

He will also be wishing Dan Petrescu could match Beardsley's aplomb near to goal. Twice the Romanian had opportunities to disturb Newcastle's dominance but the first, after 56 minutes, he pulled wide and the second was cleared off the line by John Beresford.

Wednesday had played better than the final, almost humiliating, 10 minutes suggested. But those who watch them regularly will know that is a familiar story.

Sheffield Wednesday (5-3-2 ): Pressman, Petrescu (Ingesson, 85), Atherton, Watts, Walker, Nolan; Degryse, Sheridan (Hyde, 56), Pembridge; Bright, Hirst (Sinton, 77).

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Hislop; Barton, Peacock, Howey, Beresford; Gillespie, Lee, Clark, Ginola; Beardsley, Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Watson, Kitson, Srnicek (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (S Merstham).