since 1878

Newcastle United (0) 2 - 2 (0) Ipswich Town

FA Barclaycard Premiership 2001-02

Saturday, March 16, 2002

Referee: M Riley

Manager: Unknown

St James Park

Attendance: 51,115

Manager: George Burley

Match Number: 2942

























Match Report

Battling performance at St James Park

In the end Town had to settle with a point after a battling performance at St James Park. The game could have gone either way, but the first positive result in over five weeks for the Tractor Boys reinstates belief that we can still beat the drop...

It was a strange game, the sort when almost every emotion possible was experienced by the travelling Town fans high in the stands. We came agonisingly close to winning, but also nearly had everything stolen with a last minute penalty. Justice was done when Shearer missed the spot kick after a disgraceful exhibition of gamesmanship, but more about that later. Overall, this was a performance that made you wonder why we are so low in the table and Newcastle so high. Town more than matched their opponents, and so nearly made it a memorable victory on Tyneside.

Burley made the sensible decision to start Sixto Peralta and Marcus Bent, and employ a 4-4-2 system. And the result was evident- from the word go, Ipswich at looked as if they meant business. So often we fail to take the initiative and wait until the other team has scored. Not today though, and Clapham nearly scored with a cracking 25 yard strike that Shay Given just tipped away in the first minute. For the first half hour we were in command, and had the home team on the run.

Newcastle gradually came into the game, and Nolberto Solano and Carl Court came close to opening the score line, before Sereni saved brilliantly from a Shearer shot. Shearer, his usual dirty self, had the ball in the net after wrestling with John McGreal, but fortunately Mike Riley saw the impediment. But 0-0 was a fairish reflection of the first half, and as far as Ipswich were concerned, a gigantic improvement on recent games.

As with the first half, Town nearly scored from the kick-off. After a great move, it was Jermaine Wright who belted his shot high when it looked a certain goal. Bent and Stewart both went close, before Bent finally and deservedly put us in front. He beat the off-side trap and sprinted onto a header from Stewart then coolly slotted the ball into the back of the net.

It seemed too good to be true, and for once the defence seemed to comfortably coping with what was chucked at them. However, ten minutes later Newcastle were back on level terms. Peralta was guilty of being dispossessed when he should have passed, and Newcastle quickly broke and won a free kick 25 yards out. It was in a perfect position for Robert, and he skilfully curled the ball past Sereni.

It was such a shame to concede a goal in a needless manner, but two minutes later the lead was restored. Sereni pumped the ball up the pitch, too far really, and it should have been a bread and butter clearance for Andy O'Brien. But the defender failed to clear the ball, and Bent capitalised by steaming in and shooting low past Given. It was a real strikers goal, and had the Town fans celebrating again in disbelief.

With half an hour to go, it became a backs-to-the-wall effort to hold on, although we did still look dangerous on the break. Our old mate Kieron and Colchester reject Lua Lua came on, and Shearer had the ball in back of the net again by foul means. With five minutes left on the clock the former England Striker final headed past Sereni legally when Town players backed off a Newcastle attack too much.

It was gutting at the time, but could have been so much worse. With the crowd baying for a last gasp winner, Clarence Acuna fell over in the box when there was no one (not even the ball) near him. It was a disgusting attempt to con the ref, and it worked a treat. Mike Riley, who until then had had one of his better games, incredibly pointed to spot.

The prospect of leaving with another defeat seemed a certainty, especially with penalty expert Shearer about to take the kick. But when all hope seemed lost, Shearer miraculously screwed the ball wide. It was the final kick of the game, and made the draw definitely seem a point won when minutes earlier it would have been two points lost. Psychologically, that may prove to very beneficial.

This is a great away point, and is something to build on. It's still frustrating, to think that we were only minutes away from what would have been such a valuable victory, but we could have came away with nothing. Bearing in mind the performance, a defeat would have been heartbreaking, and possibly the final straw. However, I'm now more confident than before the game that we can survive, and if we manage to follow this result up with a home victory over Villa next week we'll stand every chance. We're not dead and buried yet!

From The Terrace

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