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Cup of cheer

Posted on 24 September 2008  - 12:00

A place in Saturday's draw for the fourth round of the Carling Cup was booked as our defence of the trophy began with victory at Newcastle by a 2-1 margin.

Cup of cheer

A place in Saturday's draw for the fourth round of the Carling Cup was booked as our defence of the trophy began with victory at Newcastle by a 2-1 margin.

It represented our first win in domestic competition this season and will surely prove the perfect tonic to take into Sunday's Premier League contest against Portsmouth.

Roman Pavlyuchenko opened his account in a Spurs shirt to get us underway before Jamie O'Hara extended the advantage, seeing to it that a certain degree of confidence was restored to the ranks.

There were two changes from the side that started the eventual stalemate against Wigan last time out, with Ledley King and Aaron Lennon returning to the fold from the off.

Pavlyuchenko was provided with the opportunity to present his case for running solo in attack when the occasion next demands, this time in a cavernous arena that the locals opted to not populate in numbers on the night.

Both Pavlyuchenko and Heurelho Gomes took hefty bumps in the line of duty early on before our first threat on the home goal on 19 minutes. A Gareth Bale free-kick from left - a result of a hack by Geremi on Benoit Assou-Ekotto - was swung in and met by the shin of Jonathan Woodgate in front of goal. The defender's shin did not prove accurate in directing the ball goalwards.

Newcastle away

A Jamie O'Hara corner was met cleverly by the head of Pavlyuchenko just after the half hour mark, before Woodgate threw his head at a set piece centre eight minutes before the break.

The pressing and more opportunist play was coming from the team in light blue and the Magpies were flapping a little, especially when Lennon sent Shay Given scurrying sideways unsure of whether his shot was going inside or outside of the upright.

In stoppage time Geremi tried his luck from a long-range free-kick that was diverted off the head of Cacapa and gave Gomes an anxious second as he watched it skid past his left hand post.

It was not an inspiring first half with both sides a little tentative in their attacking play, the result of which was probably more yellow cards than genuine goalscoring chances.

There was a real one shortly after the break when Damien Duff stole through and shot across Gomes and, as the home crowd rose to salute an opener, Woodgate slid in and scooped off the line.

Giovani was introduced with 52 minutes on the clock to replace the tiring Bale and the Mexican international instantly added some fizz to proceedings with a couple of darting runs deep into opposition territory. Assou-Ekotto then warmed up Given with a shot from distance on an increasingly chilly night.

Michael Owen then spun Woodgate and Gomes was forced to foil.

On 61 minutes the deadlock was broken and Pavlyuchenko was off the mark. A superbly flighted cross from the left by Lennon flew onto the grateful head of the Russian, who propelled the ball powerfully past Given.

Newcastle away

The joy was doubled five minutes later - during which time Fraizer Campbell replaced Lennon - when Jamie O'Hara charged down Steven Taylor and broke through on goal. Bearing down on Given, he remained cool and applied a left-foot finish.

Pavlyuchenko was given a breather to allow for the return of Luka Modric after his knee injury. Gomes protected his clean sheet with a smart block from a powerful drive from Obafemi Martins, looking more and more a complete, composed and athletic goalkeeper.

He could do little about Michael Owen netting a consolation just before stoppage time, the Brazilian lurching out bravely to knock a Geremi cross off course, but the predator that is Owen was waiting to smash home the loose ball and offer some hope to the home side in the added three minutes.

It may not be points on the board in the Premier League, but it could well be a signpost towards improved fortunes ahead.