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MATCH REPORT

Posted on 14 January 2007  - 12:00

Two goals in two second half minutes snatched an unlikely victory for Newcastle United at the Lane.

Two goals in two second half minutes snatched an unlikely victory for Newcastle United at the Lane.

In a game that was dominated by the team in white and the lead secured twice, anything other than a home win appeared a fanciful prospect possibly to even the most optimistic Newcastle supporter. The problem was that possession and clear chances were not converted into enough goals and an afternoon that should have yielded three points resulted in none being added to our account.

Jermain Defoe and Dimitar Berbatov did find the net, but Shay Given was in inspired form and stopped us running up a score that an England middle order batsman might be happy with at the moment.

There was one change to the team that recorded the goalless draw at Cardiff last Sunday that sees us back here on FA Cup duty on Wednesday. The change was to accomodate the return of Aaron Lennon to the starting line-up for the first time since the Dinamo Bucharest encounter in December. Robbie Keane who, like Aaron, made a a brief appearance at Ninian Park, was on the bench along with Hossam Ghaly - recovered from the boot in the face he sustained on New Year's Day down at Portsmouth.

For the visitors, influential midfielder Scott Parker made the trip but stayed tracksuited due to a groin problem. Parker was a big factor in our 3-1 reverse in the North East three weeks ago.

The Lennon-factor became evident in the first few minutes, his speed providing the impetus for a much snappier style of play. It was soon Defoe adding a few volts to the game's power supply when he read the intentions of Berbatov and Steed Malbranque and homed in on Given from the left of the area. The keeper got the better of that one-on-one, but would have had absolutely no chance if the striker's volley from a Pascal Chimbonda cross had been a bit lower.

Defoe was the central character early on, his teased cross from the right only just avoiding the head of Berbatov after evading Given. Somehow Newcastle didn't fall behind in the 12th minute when Given's goal was laid seige to.

It only took a minute though and it was that man Defoe. Malbranque - who had a thumping effort beaten away by Given in the previous minute - turned provider from the left and the little striker popped up with his 13th goal of the season.

The joy was short lived and in the 15th minute from a deep free-kick Paul Huntingdon attempted to head back across goal. The ball ended back at his feet and the 19-year-old defender drilled goalwards from an acute angle and was quickly wheeling away in celebration.

The term against the run of play did not quite do this justice.

The lead was nearly restored on 28 minutes after Given came careering out of his goal to foil Lennon, which he did, but the ball ran loose and Malbranque was able to knock it back over the keeper's head from 30-odd yards - the ball landing just wide of the upright. Given was then at full-stretch to deny Lennon as domination increased again, a dipping drive from Defoe flashing just wide moments before the interval.

There was a bit of a spat between Given and Chimbonda before the whistle for which both players were booked, but the bigger talking point at the break was how the score was still level.

It didn't stay that was for much longer and on 53 minutes the advantage was restored. Malbranque played in Chimbonda down the right and he centred low for the advancing Teemu Tainio. The midfielder's shot was blocked and the ball ran free in the direction of Berbatov, who hit downwards and the flight of the ball off the pitch defeated Given.

It was the 11th goal of the season for the Bulgarian and his first in seven games.

The initiative clearly remained with our team as they sought to improve on the score and entertain a crowd of 35,942. It was an excellent display from the off - just not really reflected in the amount of goals netted.

Tom Huddlestone sought to do something about it and rapped in a dipping drive that sailed just wide, via a slight deflection.

With being only a goal ahead, there was always the fear that Newcastle were still in it and this proved to be the case on 71 minutes. Obafemi Martin's, with little obvious danger, picked up the ball around the edge of the area with Michael Dawson for company and worked less that half a yard of space before rattling the ball high past Paul Robinson.

There was worse to follow when Nicky Butt stormed into the area a minute later and shot across Robinson and into the net. Stunned silence fell over the Lane, bar a small corner of the Park Lane - the inhabitants probably couldn't believe what they had witnessed either.

The team were then seeking to save a game that should really have been put to bed long before. Substitute Keane came very close amid claims that the ball struck the arm of Nolberto Solano on the line before Defoe struck the crossbar. Hossam Ghaly and Berbatov so nearly combined to match saving effect in stoppage time, but the game ended up being lost and this is definitely one that got away.