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This Season 
 Match Report 2001-02 - Middlesbrough (h) 

This report is brought to you by a Sausage Roll. We thought you'd be heartily sick of any turkey-based products.... 

(click on food for details)

Sat 26th December 2001, 3.00pm.

Venue: St. James' Park 

Conditions: Clear, no frost. 



Newcastle United 3 - 0 Middlesbrough


28 mins A searching ball from Speed dropped nicely for Shearer, who found himself on the right side of the Leazes area. A non-challenge from Queudrue left wor Al with a shooting chance against the advancing Crossley, and his first time effort bounced back off the goalie. Despite the attentions of Southgate and Crossley, Shearer was able to poke the ball back towards the unattended goal with his left boot, and it bounced in and over the line.  1-0 

Half time: Newcastle 1 Middlesbrough 0

58 mins A corner played in from the United right found the incoming figure of Speed, although his goalbound header was touched in by Bellamy. Both players seemed to have a valid claim but the Welsh captain was later credited with it.  2-0

83 mins
The scampering Dyer picked up the ball in midfield and released Bellamy away down the right, in a position normally taken up by Solano. The Welshman sent over a low cross that Shearer dummied on the penalty spot, allowing Bernard to steal in and rifle home with almost his first touch of the game.  3-0

Full time:
Newcastle 3 Middlesbrough 0

We Said

Uncle Bobby said: 

"We're gradually getting better. That's five on the trot, and it's becoming better.

"But I won't change my stance. I still think we'll be there or thereabouts - but the teams below us today who have all won just have that little bit extra depth in quality and numbers, I think.

"We'll just chip away. There's too much football for anybody to start talking about winning championships.

"We've got Chelsea at home and we've got Manchester United away - and we know we've got to go to Liverpool and Tottenham. There are a lot of big games ahead for us."

"We gave a convincing display from start to finish.

"We played on Saturday, and they didn't. But we didn't show any sign of leg tiredness and mental tiredness.

"We were always looking to be penetrative, and I think we've had a good day.

"The only wrong thing about the day was that we were hoping that the other results might have gone for us - and they didn't.

"All the teams - I was going to say above us, but they're below us and I'm not used to that - have won.

"Dyer has been outstanding for us. He's given three sterling performances in a very short time after 10 months out. He was all over the park; people couldn't live with him.

"He's a major part of the way the team is playing. Gary Speed also gave another outstanding, big performance - again."

They Said

Steve McClaren said:

"Newcastle were full of confidence and very sharp, and we looked like we needed that game on Saturday.

"We looked a little bit rusty to start with. We were caught on the back foot and stayed that way throughout.

"But that's possibly one of the best performances a team has put in against us. They're full of confidence at the moment, playing good, flowing football - and I think they'll cause any team problems.

"We were disappointed not just with the result but the performance. We're better than that and we've performed better than that in most games.

"We've been looking quite solid defensively and today we didn't have that.

"In the Liverpool and Manchester United games we've competed well, looked organised and have been hard to beat - but you'll get that in a season.

"We'll get results and performances where you think 'Heck, we're back to square one'. But it's how you recover from those, and we have to go to Arsenal on Saturday and do that.

"We're in the middle of what I call a tough spell. We're in the trenches."

Match Stats

A Boxing Day victory over the smogs at the 5th time of asking:

1949 Middlesbrough (h) 0-1 Div One 
Middlesbrough (h) 2-3 Div One 
1961 Middlesbrough (h) 3-4 Div Two 
1991 Middlesbrough (h) 0-1 Div Two
2001 Middlesbrough (h) 3-0 Premiership

And a first win when Mark Halsey has been the whistle-blower:

Oct 2000 Everton (h) lost 0-1
4 yellow, 0 red 
Jan 2001 Chelsea (a) lost 1-3
3 yellow, 0 red
May 2001 Liverpool (a) lost 0-3
2 yellow, 0 red
Dec 2001 Middlesbrough (h) won 3-0
1 yellow, 0 red

It's That Man Again: Alan Shearer was once again in the thick of goalscoring action against the smogs:

2001/02:  (a) 2 goals  (h) 1 goal n/a
2000/01:   (a) 1 goal   (h) didn't play
1999/00:  (a) 0 goals  (h) 2 goals
1998/99:  (a) 1 goal  (h) no goals  1 goal friendly (a)
1996/97:  (a) 0 goals  (h) no goals 1 goal league cup (a) 

Our actual sequence of league wins now extends to 5, the first time we've managed this since 1996 in the halcyon days of Kevin Keegan (7 games from mackems (a) Sep 1996 to losing in the 8th at Leicester in the October).  
Finally, nice to see that our winning run has coincided with an improvement in discipline (at least for rightly-awarded yellow cards). In our 7 game unbeaten Premiership streak we've seen just 7 bookings, compared to 15 in the previous 7 league games.


Another side to our recent revival - as well as gaining the ability to wrest maximum points from allegedly-intimidating away trips, we confirmed in this match that we could emulate another one of the facets of the "entertainers" by efficiently dispatching rubbish on our own ground.

From an entirely personal point of view, some of the most dispiriting days in the post Keegan era have been when obviously-inferior sides have come to toon and taken the points by dint of a superior work ethic. Don't get me wrong however, this isn't an admission of a Manchester United-like assumption that appearance at a home game is enough to secure the victory. You can only become that smug by winning things.

Nobody seriously expects to win every home game, but the days when all the pieces fitted together and 3-0 wins against Manchester United were recorded were always followed by cowardly capitulations against the likes of Manchester City, Everton and Charlton. Occasional inspiration was replaced by regular outbreaks of mundanity. 

Call me conceited, but to see the likes of Graham Stuart and Shaun Goater cavorting across our turf just hacked me off to the nth degree. I'll stand and applaud the endeavour of any quality footballers who do the business on our park, regardless of the size of the reputation (best footballing team at the toon this season? Troyes). I refuse to give credit to a side who come to Tyneside, spin their trick and get away with it. Whether we are lacking in common sense or direction that day, the fact that we're made to look like chumps is the downer - even more so than being played off the park by a better team. 

For that reason alone then, good victories over the likes of Boro are to be cherished. After an in and out start to the home Premiership campaign, we've recently started to grow into our role and thankfully consigned that last raft of "scared to play at home" stories to chip wrappings. The lads now look like they enjoy being there, and want to please their public. 

The boot of Boksic and a missed Nobby pen saw the smogs triumph here last season, and to be frank they were rotten, so what that made us is open to question.

As we said then about Newcastle:
"the current team on the pitch aren't lacking in application or resolve, just in talent. We hammered away at the visitors in what was a deeply dispiriting, unintelligent manner..."

Same team, different season and while Boro are as poor as before, we have taken an almighty leap forward. 

It's probably timely to remind you of the toon team in that game last season who were frankly artless.

Given, Barton (Griffin), Quinn, S.Caldwell, Hughes, Solano, Lee, Acuna (Cordone), Speed, Ameobi (Gallacher), Cort.

Not exactly pedigree best of show at Crufts, more Battersea Dogs home....

The passion and the commitment of the likes of Gallacher were never in doubt (wish I could say that about Shola) but there was nowt else to write home about, save a swish of the foot from Cort that briefly raised hopes. Part of the problem was that injury had deprived us of quality players (Dabizas, Shearer and Dyer of course) but also that we had no tricks and no spark of initiative, unless the Peruvian deigned to earn his brass.

The other debilitating factor was that there was no competition for places - them that weren't on weren't bothered (Marcelino, Glass) and the only alternatives (LuaLua, Bassedas) were even more unpalatable than what we had. We also ran around collectively like an asthmatic grandfather in a school sports race. 

Credit to Robson then for taking the good pieces (keeper, anchormen in midfield) and adding to them with a mixture of the high-profile and the cannily-acquired. The cash box lid was prized open for the Bellamy and Robert deals, reputedly after ultimatums from the manager, while bargain basement buys like O'Brien and the then-farmed out on loan freebie Bernard also crept in and quietly started cementing their places in the squad. 

The key factor in our revival continues to be pace - it simply makes things happen, both on and off the field. The opposition become unsettled, the toon are roared on from the sidelines: never mind the sway of the terrace throng, getting bums off seats is now the name of the game.

To have six of the fastest men in the league to call on is an awesome weapon for Bobby, and the pace of Dyer, Robert, LuaLua, Bellamy, Solano and Bernard allows for multiple formations and arrangements. It's pleasing to be able cheer off the likes of Dyer after another display of perpetual motion, knowing that his replacement is limbering up to wreak havoc on tiring defenders. 

One definition of luxury is to make substitutions at ones' leisure rather than the desperate game-chasing dice-throwing we've resorted to in past times. Another one would be having a 10m winger who can flit in and out of game when he feels like it, his once-a-half cameos showing what he's capable of. Am I the only one who thinks wor Laurent is coasting through games? Understudy Bernard is starting to put the pressure on, with another cracking finish in this game within moments of his arrival.

In terms of prolonging the effective careers of the likes of Speed and Shearer, our fleet-of-footedness is also a boon. Finally, pace at the back to clear the danger (Distin) and support the attackers (Hughes) is simply an added bonus.   

So, halfway through the campaign, and so far so good. The intertoto diversion may come back to haunt us, but I don't quite see how at this point. We hit the ground running and haven't faltered so far for more than the odd game, with a tolerable level of injuries for once. 

If there is a cloud on the horizon, it's that the teams round us are bringing in additional resource to try and secure the Champions League qualification that is vital to their futures, if not the title. Our only riposte to that would appear to be securing Distin and Bernard on long-term permanent deals, and recalling loan players from Nationwide clubs. The money box is empty apparently and we have to go with what we've got, at least until Cameron Hall get the money for their shares and disappear from the scene.

On a purely personal level, the pitch at Gallowgate continues to give cause for concern, a large section having been relaid in front of the Milburn stand, which made the equivalent strip in front of the East Stand look even worse as it cut up. With occasional small areas of sand, it won't take much poor weather to make this a handicap to our playing style within a month or two.

Interesting times then, and a mightily encouraging recent series of results backed by entertaining displays from the side. Heartening also to see the battling never-say-die qualities coming to the fore in times of adversity. Two more big games coming up, with some long-overdue punishment hopefully waiting for Chelsea, and the chance to seriously test the alleged recovery of Manchester United. 

As Bobby says, we'll know a bit more about where our team can take us by the time we line up against Palace, but the very fact we can treat the FA Cup as a distraction from the main event rather than a means of salvaging a season is vastly satisfying.  

We may not remain competitive throughout the season in the face of the other challengers, but while the team are in the groove, keep cheering and keep believing. 

Skill and enthusiasm are vital, but the confidence that players get from being genuinely competitive is the irreplaceable ingredient in our current upward progress. Arrogance no, belief yes. 

PS - We really must now be starting to irritate the rest of the league, with yet another goal coming after an incident that chattering non-believers will point to as being undeserved and verging on cheating. I refer of course to the opening goal, which the scorer himself has already admitted handling in a roundabout way.

Coming on top of penalties given in the two away games that had anti-toon scribes snapping their pens in exasperation, and the Speed winner against Blackburn that was surely diverted in by the real hand of god (never mind that phony Argie coke fiend in '86) it's payback time, big style. Only another 20 years of dodgy decisions against us to put right....     

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Page last updated 26 December, 2011