Tottenham (1) 1 Allen (28) Newcastle United(1) 2 Ferdinand (37, 61) Att: 32,535 Spurs: Walker, Edinburgh, Howells, Calderwood, Nielsen, Anderton (Fox 78), Wilson, Campbell, Sinton, Armstrong, Allen (Rosenthal 78) Subs not used: Carr, Nethercott, Baardsen Toon: Srnicek, Watson, Elliott, Howey, Peacock, Clark, Lee, Beardsley, Ginola, Shearer, Ferdinand Subs not used: Hislop, Asprilla, Albert, Gillespie, Barton
Anyway back to the team sheet...Clark was in place of Batty but barely recognisable with a mop of hair - I preferred his menacing Robert de Niro "Taxi Driver" look. Keegan had decided to stick with the Howey-Peacock partnership at the back, supported by the able Watson and Elliott full-back pairing. In midfield, Keegan had Ginola on the left, Rob Lee on the right and Beardsley in the middle with Clark in the anchor role. Up front were Sir Les and Shearer, and Pav was in goal. Over £16m of talent, including Tino and Gillespie, was keeping the bench warm (also Barton, Albert and Hislop). In terms of outfits we were wearing the anonymous looking indigo (grey) strip while Pav was in an all black outfit which wasn't a touch on Walker’s iridescent green outfit which threatened to self-ignite at any moment.
After some nice early touches from Watson, the first shot of any note was from Anderton after five minutes. I was watching Peter Beardsley and noted that his touch and pass weren't up to the same standard when I saw him play last year (is age finally catching up with him?) and began to understand why Tino has been preferred in his place. Ginola was also someone to keep an eye on given his "will he/won't he" departure from St James park. Twelve minutes past three Ginola raced down the left wing, tried to centre the ball, fell arse over kite and missed the ball completely to the delight of the Tottenham fans seated around me. He was then treated to a show of wrist actions that left no doubt what the assembled Tottenham fans thought of the manoeuvre.
I watched admiringly as Sol Campbell came out of defence with the ball and couldn't help thinking how lucky Tottenham were to have football's equivalent of Jonah Lomu at the heart of their defence. I understand first hand now why he was included in the England Euro Cup squad and without belittling Howey's efforts, I know who I would pick first out of the two.
Pavel was showing his usual hi-jinx with a mis-kicked clearance that skewed over the goal line for a corner. After about 20 minutes things came alight for us with an excellent run from Elliott (Spurs allowed him to run from one end to the other almost like he had a bad case of BO and no-one wanted to go near him) but finally finished up in a goal-mouth melee with every possibility of a goal for us.
Three minutes later after a nice piece of skill from Ginola, his under-struck cross field pass was intercepted and resulted in a cross from Sinton which the Spurs new boy Allen put away with authority. At this stage of the game there was no real service to either Shearer or Ferdinand although they were both receiving close attention from the Spurs defence. I could see Elliott and Ginola remonstrating with each other and a number of our moves appeared to being going nowhere in particular as if the team had run out of ideas.
Then on 36 minutes past the hour Ginola knocked in a low hard cross which Walker couldn't handle and Shearer poked towards goal. It came out again before Les finally put the ball out of its misery and prodded it into the Spurs net from a prone position of the ground. A scrappy goal resulted in relief all round for the Newcastle fans and the thought "they all count" went though my head.
Before half-time a cross by Beardsley almost led to an own goal when Sol Campbell miscued and the ball went directly behind him and then at the other end an open goal was missed by Spurs Danish import Neilson.
At half-time I felt that Spurs had shaded us but there wasn't a lot in it. Our best player in the first half in my view was Elliott with everyone else having a "wouldn't write home about it" type of game.
The second half started with an action replay of the first half with a nice run from Watson. I don't know what was said at half time but we immediately looked a better team and within five minutes both Ferdinand and Shearer had been tripped as part of the same move and the resulting free kick from outside the box was taken by Shearer. It just missed although from where I was sitting in the South Bank (opposite end) I couldn't tell whether there had been a deflection off the post or it had just whizzed over the cross bar.
After all the comments from fellow supporters about our appalling corner kicks (I know we scored one the other week) I paid close attention to all the corners taken. Ginola must have been practising as although we didn't score from a corner all our corners gave the Tottenham defence some problems. Then with just over a quarter of an hour gone Ferdinand banged in his second after some nice work by Rob Lee and Shearer. Shades of the Newcastle of old.
The action rapidly moved to the other end after the restart with a brave headed clearance from Howey resulting in him being knocked to the ground. After Howey's recovery, the game resumed in typical end to end English fashion with goal scoring opportunities at both ends. I was in the right position to be able to see Pav save superbly, low down to his left hand side from Armstrong and at the other end a good turn and run by Les did not get its just reward.
We were still guilty occasionally of some sloppy play but there were also touches of the form that we showed during the first half of last season although Rob Lee just doesn't look the same player out wide, as he did last year when Keegan was heralding him as the best player in Britain.
With fifteen minutes to go Fox and Rosenthal came on for Tottenham and shortly afterwards a mix up in our defence almost gave Armstrong a free shot at goal. I thought Beardsley’s form was summed up by an attempt at an overhead kick that spiralled out of control directly into touch. A few minutes later Beardo was put through and then hit his shot over the bar where a couple of seasons ago he would have shimmied and then lobbed the goalkeeper. Straight afterwards Tottenham almost scored with Pav stranded and just before the final whistle Clark forced a great save from Walker. The final whistle came about right (early if anything given Howey's treatment) and we went away with three deserved points because we were the better team in the second half and scored one more goal than Spurs...seriously we were in a similar class to Spurs whose home advantage was offset by their injury problems.
In terms of the overall game no particular Newcastle player stood out but Ferdinand and Shearer appear to be forming a partnership that will hopefully yield plenty of goals and will give defences a real headache, particularly if Tino, Beardo, Lee etc. can start creating some problems from the midfield...remember some of the General's great goals during the first half of last season? I thought the back four were pretty solid with Howey and Peacock playing for each other and I don't think that the Prince will get back in until one of these two players is injured, but I do like the height that Albert provides. The game was played in a good spirit with only two yellow cards and outside afterwards both sets of fans appeared to mix amicably.
On this performance we (with three away points from a London game) can look forward to being a title contender providing St. James’ Park can once again become the fortress that it was for us last season.