Blackburn Rovers (a) Premiership
Half time: Blackburn 0 Newcastle 0
52 mins A Robert corner
taken in front of the toon section was defended back to the same area, but
passed the other side of the flag for a throw. With the minimum of fuss, the
French winger wound up a long throw to the front of the six yard box that
bounced once and passed Shearer and Friedel who jumped to together to try
and gain control. However, lurking beyond them was Bellamy, who
twisted and fired home from close range 1-0
Full time: Blackburn 1 Newcastle 1
Sir Bobby said:
"We could have been two down after 45 minutes, although their keeper did make two good saves from Gary Speed and Alan Shearer as well.
"To be fair to the players, they responded after half time and, having got our noses in front, it never looked as though we were going to lose the game. It was a shock when they equalised.
"But we've thrown it away for the second game in a row away from home and I'm annoyed about that."
"Craig's injured and he can't be
thinking about midweek internationals - he's hardly played for five months.
"It was a really aggressive finish (from Stead). Jon was going to make sure that the ball ended up only in one place - in the back of the net. It was like a throwback to Alan Shearer, the master at the other end.
"Apart from the goal Jon really pleased me. He embarrasses people with the amount of honest running he does both for himself and the team, and if you do that you have a chance of being a player.
"But we are not going to get carried away - it's two games, two goals. Let's see how things stand at the end of the season. He's only been training with us for four or five days and he will progress because he will be training and playing with better players."
"Certainly for the first half we were
the better team - and over the 90 minutes we shaded it. Their goal was not a
great one from our point of view but we kept going after that and that's really,
3rd goal of the
season for Bellamy, adding to the pair he bagged at home to Breda in
September's UEFA Cup clash with NAC Breda. His last Premiership goal came in
March 2003 - against Blackburn at SJP and it's over a year since he last scored
in an away game in League or Cup - in January 2003's 2-2 draw at West Ham.
Here we go again. Another dispiriting away result that saw us avoid defeat, but once again prove that we're unable to hold a one goal lead or build on it - the mark of a decent side.
In truth though, Rovers could have been out of sight well before Friedel's instinctive stop from point-blank range ensured that the opening 45 minutes remained scoreless. On that basis, we did well to leave here with a point, after looking as inept in the early stages as we did last season when we ultimately lost 5-2 after being two goals and one man down in 8 minutes.
Lacking Woodgate, our defence had suffered from attacks of the jitters every time the home side came forward, with both full backs time and again facing two men bearing down on Given's goal as Blackburn attempted to blow away memories of their fitful home form this season.
Worryingly though, for a manager who was able to field what looks like his first XI minus Woodgate, United's midfield had both a soft centre and clipped wings. That meant that Rovers were able to push on with little hindrance and when they lost the ball were only ever a stray pass or a non-tackle from regaining their momentum.
At times Speed appeared to be trying to stem the tide single-handedly with the minimum of assistance, further handicapped by a bemusing series of decisions given by the hapless Messias and his myopic flag wavers that added to the feeling that the world was against us - had one of a couple of reasonable chances for us gone in at that stage, no doubt some infringement would have been dreamed up to frustrate us.
After all that though, some good goalkeeping, bad shooting and pass selection, inept heading and last- ditch interventions kept our sheet clean and ensured that we got back to the refuge of the dressing room for emergency repairs, which presumably included a refresher course in defending for Titus and / or some smelling salts...
Things took a turn for the better after the break, as Souness's team talk appeared to have a debilitating effect on his side's attacking ambitions, we showed some interest in the going forward with the ball department and the referee was slightly less annoying than previously. In a ridiculous interlude though, Messias awarded a free kick to United after a Bellamy challenge that was an exact replica of the one Rob Styles penalised him for at Birmingham - the consequent free kick leading to Stern John's equaliser.
We'd seen some trademark gallops from Bellamy in the first half - stopped by fair and foul means, as well as a fair bit of useful possession round about the Rovers box. This continued after the break with Shearer winning more than his share of balls pumped forward, but frustratingly he lacked the support at crucial times to seize on his knockdowns - answers on a postcard as to how Dyer, Bellamy and Robert all continually managed to be wrong-footed or too remote to intervene.
The goal when it came was from a bizarre source, as Robert sent over a long throw right to the Rovers six yard box that, along with Shearer's challenge on Friedel unsettled Rovers enough for Bellamy to twist and fire the loose ball home. No doubt Robert faces a fine for breaking what is presumably a club rule that penalises players for hoying the ball into what we're duty-bound as footy hacks to call "the mixer." We just never do it. Why?
The Frenchman actually tried to repeat the feat in the dying seconds of the game, but despite looking so weary that he could barely put one foot in front of the other, managed to encroach on to the pitch so obviously that even the cock-eyed linesman, who had missed most other offences during the evening, spotted the transgression.
One up though in a similar manner to the St.Andrews game, with the home side apparently destined not to break their duck, we again conspired not to press home our advantage despite good possession in the final third of the field.
And also like Birmingham, we were made to pay for that when a late flurry from the home side brought about an equaliser that over the whole game was certainly deserved but seemingly avoidable. Well at least we're consistent.... flattering to deceive once again.
Interesting to see the composition of our bench by the way - excluding Harper, who provided a second-half comedy moment by falling over a row of seats when straining to (successfully) catch a stray ball on the away bench.
Viana and Ambrose both featured as expected with Bowyer
having played only one reserve game of his comeback, but while Shola won the
battle of the strikers over Bridges, there was one other face that may have been
unfamiliar to younger supporters - step forward Robbie Elliott.
The triumphant post-match crowing of the Ewood PA monkey about securing a point thanks to new idol Stead proved just how reduced circumstances are around those parts now - those of us in the Darwen End could have told them that only drawing with this incarnation of the Geordie Dream Team is no great achievement.
Yet another wasted opportunity to register an away win
then and we join Liverpool, Charlton and Fulham in being incapable of stringing
results together to rise above the pack vying for fourth place, with improved
form from the likes of Villa making the picture ever-more congested and our
chances lessened as a result.