27 mins Riggott's
foul on Ameobi handed us a free kick in a central position outside the Boro
box, which looked like providing Shearer with his first chance of the match
to equal Milburn's double century. Instead though it was Nobby
Solano who stepped up to score his second goal in successive home games,
curling a cracker into the top corner of the Gallowgate net on 27
Half time: Newcastle 1 Middlesbrough 0
54 mins Yakubu Our
regular lapse in concentration saw Yakubu level shortly after the
restart when Morrison fired over a low cross that the Nigerian easily
converted, Bramble having charged upfield, only to lose possession cheaply.
TV replays later showed Babayaro idling back from the halfway line as Boro
87 mins Substitute striker Hasselbaink,
the man dubbed "Fat Eddie Murphy" by Toon fans (and linked
with a move to United in the press) raced away on to Viduka's pass and left
Boumsong behind before beating Given to put the Smoggies ahead.
In a frantic finale Lee Clark was on hand to shoot home when 'Boro
'keeper Mark Schwarzer punched a corner to him, even Shay Given having come
up for this final attack of the game 2-2
Full time: Newcastle 2 Middlesbrough 2
Graeme Souness commented:
you look at the six players we've got missing, any team in the
country would miss them.
would make us a very different team. It would be easy to sit
here and say things that would appear to be kidding our
public. But I felt that as a manager I got everything from an
honest bunch of players against Middlesbrough.
showed great togetherness and never-say-die spirit. It might
not be slick passing football and creating lots of
opportunities at the minute, but the players who played
against Middlesbrough gave everything.
the players missing are an enormous miss.
six of Manchester United's, Arsenal's, Liverpool's or
Chelsea's best players away and see what type of team they
could put out.
"Robbie had a difficult first half and Shola felt pain in
his hip. We'll have to see what is around the corner for Shola
because he is complaining about his hip injury which he had
last year and required an operation. Scott Parker was missing
because he has nicked a cartilage.
thought we were the better team - the possession and the
amount of chances we created will tell you that.
from a scramble in the first half Shay Given did not have a
save to make.
was barely called into action apart from the two times he
picked the ball out of the net.
are a team that are set up to play counter-attacking football.
They mugged us twice. They have pace to hit you on the break.
I thought we bossed it throughout."
the end of the day we spent a lot of money in the summer.
have been ravaged by injuries, we all know that.
you look at our bench it will tell you that. We are so short
of numbers it is scary.
cannot afford any more injuries - we are in a big hole and we
have to dig ourselves out of it. We need to get our players
back as soon as possible.
is the chairman's football club and he is aware of the injury
Steve McLaren said:
"We were disappointed with
some decisions but we cannot blame the referee.
"It's a cruel game
because we deserved better. But we are where we are and we will deal with it.
When you look at it, it's very tight. There's only six points between us and
eighth and you look at the players coming back.
before Christmas that I predicted a better second half of the season than we
have had in the first half in the league.
to continue in Europe as we are, but in the league we will have a better second
half. A couple of wins can send you well up.
has to be our target. We have the quality in this squad to climb the table.
two points thrown away. We were 2-1 up - and I thought deservedly 2-1 up after
the performance - and to lose two points like that, it's certainly testing us.
team today showed fantastic character to play like that. It was a gritty
performance against Manchester City, but we played great football at times
1-0 down at half-time, I thought we had enough chances in the first half.
to the players 'If we keep going, we will get our rewards', and we did, but to
have it snatched away from us at the end like that is very cruel.
looked like a blatant penalty to me. I thought that the goalkeeper had to pick
the ball up, not the full-back."
Smog on the Tyne -
2005/06: Drew 2-2
2004/05: Drew 0-0
2003/04: Won 2-1 Bellamy, Shearer
2002/03: Won 2-0 Ameobi, S.Caldwell
2001/02: Won 3-0 Speed, Shearer, Bernard
2000/01: Lost 1-2 Cort
1999/00: Won 2-1 Shearer 2
1998/99: Drew 1-1 Shearer
1996/97: Won 3-1 Beardsley 2, Lee
1995/96: Won 1-0 Ferdinand
Lee Clark's late leveller extended our unbeaten
home record to seven matches and prevented a first Smoggy success at SJP
since March 2001.
And while the 33 year-old from Wallsend celebrated his first Premiership
strike since netting for Fulham against Villa in February 2005, the first
goal of his second spell as a Magpie bridged a nine year gap.
It was back in January 1997 that Clark opened the scoring at SJP in a 2-1
FA Cup win over Charlton - his last goal for Newcastle on this ground,
which came only hours after Kenny Dalglish took over as our manager.
The following week came the last goal that the man once called "Jigsaw"
(because he allegedly went to pieces in the box) netted in our colours, as we
drew 2-2 at Southampton.
manager was right about one thing - this was a real battle.
Unfortunately for him it's not just a scrap for points on the pitch, it's also one for
the hearts and minds of the supporters. And it's a contest that he
seems fated to lose.
After a miserable end to 2005 for Souness, the New Year brought with it a
recurrence of some painfully familiar problems - in defence and the treatment
The popular view
after the Liverpool and Spurs capitulations and the Charlton cancellation made
this a must-win game - and not because it was an alleged local derby.
that he certainly dare not lose this one - a fact confirmed by the instant crowd
reaction to what appeared to be the winning goal from Hasselbaink.
Another goal for the Dutchman against us signalled a mass desertion of home
fans, amid a spontaneous chorus of "we want Souness out" - the
first mention of him by the crowd in the whole game. An outsider watching this
would have believed the episode had been choreographed,
But despite those who didn't flounce out failing to sustain the sacking calls,
what proved to be a further six minutes was played in the most fearful of
Then came one
final chance - a corner deep into added time and another knife-edge moment at
the Leazes End to conjure up mixed emotions for at least some of those
Just as there were those prepared to sacrifice a point for the greater good as
Gareth Barry ran up to take his penalty for Villa a month before, then there
were doubtless those who didn't celebrate Clark's equaliser as fervently as they
But if Souness thought that goal had stopped the countdown to his departure, the
fans were quick to remind him of the reality of the situation.
Within seconds of acclaiming that equaliser, the side were booed off the field
and post-match confirmation of Ameobi and Parker joining Owen and the rest on
the sick list hardly lifted the gloom on Tyneside. Happy New Year.
Of the game itself there's not that much to say.
We played with more heart than at Liverpool and Spurs, partly because we were at
home and partly because we seemed to be putting more effort into it; but also
because our opponents played with fear for the second successive year in this
It's a measure of the media's obsession with all things black and white and
disinterest in the smoggies that Steve McLaren isn't being persecuted for his
side's general inconsistency and in this game, complete lack of adventure.
And while the travelling fans were shouting and cheering, it was Chairman Steve
Gibson whose name was being sung, not McLaren - and it was his team who were
booed off after a home draw with Manchester City last week.
Things had started off reasonably well for us, with Ameobi on the left while
Shearer and Luque were paired up front.
And it was the Spaniard who almost grabbed his first goal in England after six
minutes, getting round Schwarzer only to see his shot hit the post and bounce
However we failed to build on that and were only galvanised into positive action
when Viduka somehow shot over from point-blank range, Solano netting soon
The second half though was notable only for the three goals and a Boumsong miss,
as we were punished for our inability to establish a two-goal advantage.
A point ultimately then gave some solace but little satisfaction. The story of
There's a sense that Souness feels he's in his last days here - and that there's
bunker mentality that has seen him retreat more and more from post-match TV
appearances and make enemies in the press - a parallel with both Dalglish and
Robson's latter days.
From the outside football seems to have moved on and there's no longer a place
in the game for Souness or for that matter, Keegan. Maybe the Shankly blueprint
is finally worn out.
As he says himself, the injuries would place an unbearable strain on any side,
but it gives the lie to the notion that we have a competent squad to cover
True, Souness went to Kingston Park this week, but it was to watch the Falcons
rugby team, not Tommy Craig's reserve charges. Yet half of the second string in
action have squad numbers and contracts - for what purpose? Why not just loan
the rest of them out like Milner?
Going back to the injury problems though, these weren't all random acts.
There's certainly a large chunk of ill-fortune attached to those on the sick
list, but enough self -inflicted blows to level charges of ineptitude or worse
against those current running the show.
Bringing players back from injury too early, dubious acquisitions and a lack of
interest in the club as a whole all tell the tale of a man under pressure for
Souness has been shown to be a short-term fix that failed to address the heart
of the problem. Some of his mission has been accomplished - notably the rooting
out of dressing room miscreants - but regardless of the how and why, the reality
is that this job has defeated him.
We are more concerned with the teams below us than above, in what is a vital
next half dozen league games and under his charge, there seems to be no end to
the circle of under-achievement.
Something has to be done to break out of that, improve our league position and
prospects and remove the indifference of many supporters to their
From our own
perspective, this season (and the Souness era) has been difficult to stomach
because of the lack of off-the-seat moments. Drudgery has led to despondency,
the promised sweeteners like Emre or Dyer snatched away after tantalising
glimpses of excitement.
Souness ultimately carries the can for that, if
for no other reason than it defies logic for our investment in players to have
given the fans (and the Shepherds) such a meagre return.
And having witnessed the likes of Murray, McDermott, Tunks and Saunders in
action, surely there has to be more to be got from this squad in terms of
motivation, organisation and coaching?
To see a Newcastle side in 2006 with five Geordies in it may satisfy the
romantic notions of some.
But for two of those to be Elliott and Clark and for at least the latter to show
greater passion, fight and professionalism than so-called big name
acquisitions is the most damning indictment of all.