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Newcastle v Spurs, 21.12.08


Newcastle scorers:-
N’Zogbia, 12
Duff, 90

Spurs scorer:-
Modric, 29

Attendance: - 47,982

Referee: - Mr. A. Marriner

Newcastle (4-4-2):- Given; Beye, Coloccini, Bassong, Enrique (sub Duff, 88); Gutierrez, Butt, Guthrie, N’Zogbia; Owen (Capt.), Ameobi (sub Viduka, 30)

Subs not used: - Harper; Geremi, Taylor, Edgar; Carroll

Booked: - Enriquez, Gutierrez, Duff

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Zokora, Bentley; Modric; Pavlyuchenko (sub Campbell, 64)

Subs not used: - Cesar; Gunter, Bale; Boateng, O’Hara, Taarabt

Booked: - Huddlestone, Modric

Plum Duff goal steals victory

Joe Kinnear can claim his 88th minute replacement of left back Enrique with Damien Duff as a master stroke, as Duff stepped up to steal all three points in the dying moments of this game, which rarely excited and looked as if it was to be played out for a deserved point apiece. For Spurs it will go down as another one of those late, late goals, of which all too many have been conceded in the last two years. Newcastle beat us for the sixth consecutive league meeting, and took the spoils of a climb to the lofty height of 12th place in the Premier League, whilst Spurs remain embroiled in the relegation battle for the present.

The late news that Ledley King, Modric and Lennon had travelled was consummated by the presence of all three in the starting line-up that hardly resembled Thursday night’s UEFA Cup team. Aaron Lennon was played in his favoured right wing position, and in the early stages gave Jose Enrique a difficult enough time to get a yellow card after only 10 minutes. Such was the contribution of Lennon in a bright start by the visiting team, who looked by far the better of the two teams in the first half. Lennon had burst into the box after only one minute, but his low cross missed everyone. Playing towards his own fans in the first half, Bentley won and took a 7th minute corner, from which Michael Dawson had a header saved, when he could have done better.

Newcastle took a 12th minute lead against the run of play, when N’Zogbia (not the tallest specimen on the pitch) was allowed to collect Given clearance, with only Ekotto in his way, whilst the rest of the defence was upfield for a corner. Ekotto got a foot in the way but the ball still fell for N’Zogbia, who beat Gomes with a low shot. Spurs nearly responded immediately after Modric battled away with the ball surrounded by three Newcastle players, and passed back to Bentley. Bentley’s shot was wide. At the other end, N’Zogbia got the better of Corluka and hit a cross which Gomes beat away. N’Zogbia’s pace was a threat for the usually cool Spurs right back.

Spurs got level with a goal viewed as controversial in some home quarters. Michael Dawson hit one of his long balls, and Pavlyuchenko strolled back from his offside position. However, Luka Modric was alert to the chance and ran after the ball from an onside position, leaving the defence behind and finishing neatly for his second goal in two games, and his first in the Premier League. At this point, Joe Kinnear replaced Ameobi with Viduka. This was not due to any injury either!

The only other meaningful first half action noted by this reporter was a good ball by Corluka to Pavlyuchenko, whose shot was saved by Given. N’Zogbia again beat Corluka after the break, but when he got into the area, the ball passed clear of danger. Tom Huddlestone got a yellow card for simulation in the Newcastle area, having started the move with a great pass to Lennon, and got on the end of it too. Pavlyuchenko was replaced by Fraizer Campbell who started a good Spurs move straight away with a ball back to Modric. Modric fed Lennon, whose pass to Huddlestone was whacked well over the target.

Lennon then got the ball inside to Campbell who teed up Bentley, whose shot was deflected and looped into Given’s arms. A good spell of passing play by Spurs was broken up by the home side, and Owen had a chance which he scooped over. Bentley and Lennon were at the end of another smooth Spurs move. Lennon crossed and Campbell dived to head the ball, which went wide. On came Duff, who stole what was a good goal, when he demonstrated skill just inside the Spurs area, had a one-two with Viduka, then fired past Gomes with a low shot.

There was no coming back for Spurs, whose fans left St. James’ Park with their tails between their legs. Mind you, we could remind the gloating “Toon” fans that we are on the Wembley trail.

Overall, I felt that Spurs were guilty of sitting back for too much of the second half, allowing the home side to come onto them. Both Lennon and Bentley were tracking back well, and the team was defending stoutly. Had we taken more of the initiative, I felt the result was there for the taking. We certainly need to take maximum points from Fulham on Boxing Day and West Brom next Sunday.

May I take this opportunity to wish all readers a very Happy Christmas indeed!

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