Match Reports 1999-2000 - Arsenal (h)
Newcastle United 4 Arsenal 2
Date: Sunday 14th May 2000 4pm
Venue: St. James' Park
Conditions: Sunny and an atmosphere universally described as "carnival".
Kit: Normal home
Crowd: 36,450 - despite an away section that had massive gaps behind the big pylon again.
NUFC: Given, Griffin, Howey, Dabizas, Barton, Solano (Maric 86), Dyer, Lee (McClen 89), Speed, Ketsbaia (Gallacher 77), Shearer.
Subs n/u: Perez,
AFC: Manninger, Luzhny, Keown, Weston (McGovern 67), Cole, Parlour (Silvinho 46), Vernazza, Winterburn, Malz, Kanu (Gray 71), Suker.
Subs n/u: Lukic, Black.
Referee: Graham Poll
Wor Al got the goal he wanted with a belting free-kick to give him his 300th career goal and to bring up 30 in a black and white shirt this season.
It was party time at a relaxed and sunny St. James' as Arsenal warmed up for their UEFA Cup Final. Wenger put out a reasonable looking side (presumably after negotiations with the FA) but it was sufficiently weakened for our lads to close the season in some style.
Gary Speed started the ball rolling with a smart finish after Shearer had won a free header and played it back over his head into the path of our second top scorer. Speed side-footed home smartly.
And then came the equaliser barely a minute later. The giraffe-like
Kanu ambled through looking well offside and lobbed
Given expertly. Shearer had already skied one
free-kick from a good position but when an
infringement was penalised ten yards outside the box he grabbed the ball once more.
What followed was top-drawer, Keegan-picking material. Al lashed the
ball straight into the top corner, Alex Manninger a
mere spectator. All but a tiny corner of St.
James' were celebrating before it bulged the
net, the moment it left his boot it only had one resting place. Shearer
celebrated accordingly. He'd tell you that a penalty or a six-inch
toe-poke would have been just as good but he'd be lying.
Kieron Dyer buzzed around like the proverbial blue-arsed fly. However, for me he chose and timed his runs badly, although the crazed Ketsbaia must be a nightmare to play behind. Someone needs to bring young Kieron back down to earth but unfortunately that wasn't to be Kevin Keegan, including him in his provisional 22. Hopefully Big Al will act as chaperone as the temptations of the Nether regions offer themselves on their summer holiday
Warren Barton had another cracking game on the unfamiliar left side of defence, so it was a shame that he allowed Malz a yard that he never recovered as a low drive was dispatched past Given.
On the other side was a welcome first start for Andy Griffin. The absence of Aaron Hughes gave Griffin his chance but he grabbed it pretty well (more later). Dyer made a half-hearted attempt to restore our lead, pulling out when he seemed favourite to get a strike on goal. Speed gave him a lesson from the corner, muscling through to plant a header into the turf and up and over the man on the line.
Shay Given then attempted to make the game safe with a Pat Jennings impression that caught Manninger unawares. The Arsenal keeper just tipped the ball wide as pages in history books were about to be rewritten.
Griffin gave Dyer a fine example of an incisive run and as he looked up for someone to square to the absence of a black and white shirt forced him to shoot. He finished superbly with a flick around the advancing keeper to put the game beyond doubt.
At 2-2 the scattering of Gooners had reminded us that we were "only playing reserves" and the UEFA Cup Final lineup will probably confirm that. However, a team with Kanu, Suker, Parlour, Keown and Winterburn is worth beating.
Shearer then appeared to get his 200th league goal when he got a boot onto a ball scrambled forward. Manninger stumbled backwards clutching the ball and the crouching linesman seemed to be the only one at the Gallowgate end of the ground not to see the whole ball cross the line.
As goals three and four sealed our three points the misguided also celebrated the Wearsiders slipping to defeat at White Hart Lane. Personally, a top half finish and the extra £200k was worth more to me than another mackem defeat. Also, the added bonus of any points for the mackems was that they finished even closer to that unattainable UEFA place....
Bobby orchestrated a lap of thanks around the pitch and the boys
donned Newcastle Brown T-shirts for
the last time as the S&N sponsorship
came to an end. It was suitably contrived but the return of
"Local Hero" before and after the game was welcomed by many.
So what happens over the summer? Bobby's leading of the applause for
Ketsbaia suggests that he could be on
his way but he did the same for Lee
who had just signed a new contract. The absence of others from the walk round the pitch shouldn't
be too meaningful and our lips are sealed over the info that reaches us from those in the know.