Newcastle 3 Boro 1: Shearer pulls a masterstroke as manager's gamble hits jackpot

By Matt Lawton Chief Football Correspondent

Last updated at 10:42 AM on 12th May 2009


Two substitutions, two goals and the reason, perhaps, why Alan Shearer is so keen to remain as Newcastle’s manager. He would appear to find it rather easy.

He certainly made it look easy last night, the decision to send on Peter Lovenkrands and then Obafemi Martins amounting to something of a managerial masterstroke. Never had Super Al seemed quite so super. The Geordie nation’s very own special one.

Rarely, if ever, has Shearer celebrated the way he did at the end of this utterly absorbing encounter. Not during all those years as Newcastle’s No 9. Not even en route to that Euro 96 semi-final he contested as a team-mate of the man standing to his left here at St James’. This, he had said, was the biggest game of his career and boy did it look like it.

Super sub: Substitute Obafemi Martins saves the day for Shearer, striking the winner beyond Boro's Brad Jones just seconds after replacing Michale Owen

Super sub: Substitute Obafemi Martins saves the day for Shearer, striking the winner beyond Boro's Brad Jones just seconds after replacing Michale Owen

He had to endure a rollercoaster of emotions prior to the glorious intervention of the man now wearing his old Newcastle shirt.

An own goal from Habib Beye after little more than three minutes. A thumping equaliser from Steven Taylor six minutes after that. And then an hour of agony. An hour when everyone inside this magnificent sporting cathedral seemed resigned to a draw that was no good to either team. A draw that would probably drag both teams beyond the point of no return.

The decision to send on Martins in the 70th minute was a bold one, not least because it meant taking off Michael Owen. He is the club captain and Shearer’s friend — someone he had restored to the side after dropping him for the encounter with Liverpool.

Turkish delight: Boro striker Tuncay Sanli stops to watch Habib Beye turn in a own goal that got the visitors off to a perfect start

Turkish delight: Boro striker Tuncay Sanli stops to watch Habib Beye turn in a own goal that got the visitors off to a perfect start

But no sooner had Owen been hooked than Martins was sprinting away from Middlesbrough’s goal in celebration. First came the turn to take him away from Marlon King; then the shot that flew beyond the reach of Brad Jones; all inside 55 seconds of Shearer making the change.

That Lovenkrands added the second four minutes from time succeeded only in making Shearer look cleverer still. Kevin Nolan crossed from the right — from what
appeared to be an offside position — and Lovenkrands drove a volley into the roof of the net. Shearer hugged his assistant Iain Dowie.

Head boy: Almost an instant reply from hometown hero Steven Taylor who rose superbly to nod the hosts back onto level terms

Head boy: Almost an instant reply from hometown hero Steven Taylor who rose superbly to nod the hosts back onto level terms

This morning Newcastle find themselves ahead of Hull and out of the bottom three, but only on goal difference. In form Fulham come here this weekend before what
promises to be a difficult trip to Aston Villa. A match that will be all the more tense for the fact that Hull could yet find themselves welcoming Manchester United’s youth team to the KC Stadium on the last day of the season.

Hands up: Newcastle boss Alan Shearer and assistant Iain Dowie appeal in unison to the referee

Hands up: Newcastle boss Alan Shearer and assistant Iain Dowie (L) appeal in unison to the referee

If the Barclays Premier League title is already in the bag and Sir Alex Ferguson wants to rest players ahead of Rome, who could blame him for leaving Ronaldo and Co at home?

For that reason, this might not prove to be the £50million match it was billed as. But it felt like it last night. Not least for Gareth Southgate and a Middlesbrough side left to reflect on their 11th straight successive away defeat in the league.

When Beye scored what represented their first away goal since January, Boro must have fancied their chances of ending that particular run. It was a super turn from Tuncay that created the problem but Beye who somehow helped the ball over the line after Boro’s Turkish midfielder had slipped it under the advancing Steve Harper.

It was all the more shocking because Newcastle had started with real conviction. A neat move that started with Mark Viduka, excellent last night against his former club, and continued with Owen could have ended in a goal had Danny Guthrie’s shot not been so poor. And Viduka responded to the opening goal with a volley that rattled Jones’ right-hand post.

What next: Dejected Boro boss Gareth Southgate can't bare to watch as his relegation-threatened side fall to a damaging defeat

What next: Dejected Boro boss Gareth Southgate can't bare to watch as his relegation-threatened side fall to a damaging defeat

There was nothing, however, that Jones could do to stop Taylor’s equaliser — the centre half leaping athletically to meet Guthrie’s corner with a terrific header.

Southgate looked furious, perhaps because of Nolan’s success in illegally preventing Matthew Bates from tracking Taylor.

Viduka continued to excel and the ball he whipped in for Owen was the perfect height for the Newcastle skipper to force a fine save from Jones with a cleverly executed header.

But Middlesbrough also looked dangerous, most surprisingly in the form of the player making his Premier League debut. The impressive Marvin Emnes.

It was absorbing stuff. Tactically chaotic at times but entertaining all the same.

Great Dane: Another inspired change from Shearer, Denmark international Peter Lovenkrands, celebrates the third goal for Newcastle

Great Dane: Another inspired change from Shearer, Denmark international Peter Lovenkrands, celebrates the third goal for Newcastle

At half-time the stadium announcer pretty much summed it up before introducing what seemed to be the only two decent teams in this part of the world. ‘It’s not been a good season for everyone here in the North East,’ he said. ‘But let’s put our hands together for the Newcastle Eagles basketball team and Whitley Bay.’

It was like choosing someone’s funeral to tell the world the wife’s pregnant. An act of appallingly bad taste.

So bad that the two teams in question were almost too embarrassed to parade their trophies to supporters preparing to grieve their loss of Premier League status.

In a manner, reminiscent of that final scene in Reservoir Dogs when everyone gives it both barrels and nobody survives.

But Shearer wasn’t performing to that script.

 


 

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

7 for Viduka and 8 for Lovenkrands? Are you joking? Whoever gave those marks must have been watching another game. Viduka was immense! Deserves at least a 9!

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newcastle were so lucky it was a game about chances and boro didn't put there's away and the geordie's put there two. geordie's still goin down.

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Newcastles first two goals were down to poor refereeing again.1 offside 1 foul.

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Replacing Michael Owen with Obafemi Martins is not really a gamble, is it? Owen does all his talking off the pitch these days and is living off his reputation.

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Not exactly a masterstroke. Started with Owen in the first place - the only way Owen will perform for Newcastle is if they play in white shirts and convince him hes playing for England,

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Running close to another player to lose your marker is 1.01 is the man marking play book. Anyone will do it just happened to be Nolan. Kuyt scored 2 against the Toon last week with the same move. Bassong got lost in traffic both times. Football is about 25 years behind basketball in defensive systems and how to break them down.

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