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Duff justice

Posted on 21 December 2008  - 12:00

A Damien Duff goal at the beginning of stoppage time denied the team a more than deserved point against Newcastle at St James Park on Sunday afternoon.

Duff justice

A Damien Duff goal at the beginning of stoppage time denied the team a more than deserved point against Newcastle at St James Park on Sunday afternoon.

In deficit due to Charles N'Zogbia's early strike, Luka Modric's fine goal saw to it that the home side did not take a lead into the break yet, after dictating proceedings for large periods of the game, substitute Duff sealed maximum points for his team.

Aaron Lennon did his bit to crank up the tempo in the opening moments when he dashed down the left and took his marker before powerfully stroking across goal. Unfortunately, a blue shirt was not in attendance a few yards out.

It took N'Zogbia to enliven the home crowd when, after a spell of set pieces at the other end, Shay Given clutched and kicked, springing Newcastle into a speedy counter attack. N'Zogbia went shoulder to shoulder with Benoit Assou-Ekotto, just about getting the better of the full-back before Assou-Ekotto went to ground inside the area. The Frenchman kept his feet, turned and slotted past Heurelho Gomes to make it advantage Newcastle.

N'Zogbia forced Gomes into a spot of sharp stopping 26 minutes in before a Michael Dawson interception set Modric through on goal, despite calls for offside. The little Croatian held his nerve and drilled past Given to level the score and make it two in two games.

Roman Pavlyuchenko soon after stung the palms of Given from distance, but it was Modric catching the eye with his running with the ball and smart link play. The squeeze was being applied and Newcastle were firmly rocked back on their collective heels.

Dawson attempted to make capital from a David Bentley corner in the early seconds of the second half but could not wait for the ball to sit and his effort was always unlikely to trouble Given.

An N'Zogbia cutback required a timely block by Assou-Ekotto as the home side attempted inject some urgency into their play, while Gomes had to be quick to smother at the feet of Michael Owen.

The game was lacking a flow as the hour mark approached with moves breaking down on the verge of the last third for both sides and too often a ball over the top came to nothing. You began to suspect it might be a case of which manager made his move in a decisive bid to win the game.

The noise in the stadium was coming from the packed visitors' section, with the home fans slow to stir in support of their team.

There was nearly an opening for Tom Huddlestone following a Lennon cut inside, where the central midfielder was almost in position to benefit from Sebastian Bassong getting in a muddle around the penalty spot. Given came out to clear up and Huddlestone ended up grounded - and got a booking for his trouble.

Harry made his first change in the 65th minute, withdrawing Pavlyuchenko and drafting in Fraizer Campbell.

It was an older hand at the striking game, Owen, who had the first big chance of the half when he blasted over from a promising position and Newcastle picked up a little momentum.

The initiative was gradually clawed back as we headed into the final ten minutes and a more fortunate touch on the edge of the area for Lennon could well have led to the lead being snared, before clever play from Modric and Bentley provided a headed chance for Campbell that he could not steer on target.

Lennon then beat Jose Enrique and fizzed over a cross that Campbell propelled himself towards but could meet.

The sting was very much in the tail though. Duff pushed forward and exchanged passes with Mark Viduka before rolling the ball past Gomes to turn a point into an unlikely three for the home side.