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Robbie Keane made it seven goals in seven games but it was not enough to prevent us from falling to defeat at St James Park on Monday evening.

Robbie Keane made it seven goals in seven games but it was not enough to prevent us from falling to defeat at St James Park on Monday evening.

For the third season running we were on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline and, like on the other occasions, the result does not reflect the fact that the team had a good say in the course of events. It was just goals against coming at crucial moments - none more so that just before half-time and not long after Keane got us back into it goals-wise, but then there was the sucker punch that made the victory look more emphatic than it was.

As was pretty well documented beforehand, Radek Cerny took his place in goal as deputy for the injured Paul Robinson, while there was also a place in attack for Darren Bent. The other change from the team that started at Liverpool last time out was the introduction on the right of Steed Malbranque in place of Teemu Tainio, who began on the bench after recovery from an injury that kept him out of the internationals.

Our first impression on the game was made by the galloping strides of Gareth Bale, who eased himself into space down the left flank before dispatching a measured crossed that Keane attempted to funnel into the path of Bent, but the pair did not quite make it click on this occasion.

There was a high alert at our end in the 13th minute when, from a Charles N'Zogbia corner, Abdoulaye Faye stole a march on his marker and crashed a header against the crossbar under considerable pressure from a punching Cerny. Moments a later a quickly taken free-kick, with Bale grounded, led to forward sortie from Keane, but his chip over Shay Given was cleared away.

There was a big blow when Bale was unfit to continue in the 20th minute. Michael Owen had his first impact on the fixture six minutes later when Emre seized on a bad touch from Michael Dawson and set Owen on the charge. The striker placed with precision to the inside of the left post, but Cerny reacted superbly to fingertip the ball away.

Bent then sent Keane away on a dash into the area, but the skipper delayed his shot taking and Given was eventually able to field with some comfort. Geremi was later given the chance to test the keeper from a free-kick just outside the area, but his low effort thankfully drifted wide.

It was Cerny to the rescue just before the break when Martins shook off the attentions of Younes Kaboul and drilled goalwards with the Czech doing excellently to block at his near post. He probably would have gathered the rebound shot from Owen too had Dawson not got his block in first.

It was only a temporary reprieve, however, as a long ball from Jose Enrique was not dealt with by Dawson and Martins nipped in behind the central defender and when faced by Cerny he dispatched a shot which hit the goalkeeper and flew high into the net. It was a bitter pill so late in a half in which Newcastle had been contained and we were not without an attacking threat of our own.

In front of a crowd of 51,411, things did not get any better early on the second half and, on 51 minutes, an Emre corner was met by an unmarked Claudio Cacapa at the near post and his bullet header gave Cerny no chance.

The deficit was cut five minutes later when a Chimbonda cross was headed onto the inside of the post by Bent, the ball coming out and thankfully landing at the feet of Keane to pop back into the net. Game on. Dimitar Berbatov was also thrown into the mix in place of Malbranque.

Bent drilled high and wide after being played through by Berbatov in the wake of Newcastle being refused a free-kick at the other end. Passions were running high and tempers were getting a little frayed - then Joey Barton came on.

He must be something of a lucky charm for his new team because shortly after his entrance on 72 minutes the Newcastle advantage was extended to 3-1 courtesy of fellow substitute James Milner. A cross from the left was headed clear and, at the second time of asking, Milner slapped the ball home with a low-ish shot that bounced past Cerny and into the bottom left hand corner.

A couple of forrays at either end came to nothing and that's how it ended.