After a truly terrible string of results this year and only one win in 2009 (away at West Brom), we eventually won a six-pointer, only our seventh win all season. After a hugely dissappointing 0-0 draw at home to fellow strugglers Portsmouth last week, in what was deemed also a six-pointer, we actually played very well at home to the Smog-monsters and thoroughly deserved these vital three points. Newcastle being Newcastle did, of course, make somewhat hard work of a poor Middlesborough side, gifting the visitors a lead after just three minutes.
The goal itself came from one of our better players this season, Habib Beye. Tuncay cleverly turned inside the box only for Harper to stop his attempt at goal and somehow, the ball got tangled beneath Beye's legs, hit off his shin and bobbled into our goal. An own-goal this early on was not in the plans, but to the players' credit, head's did not drop as they perhaps would of prior to Shearer's arrival. Yes, courage, self-belief, determination and spirit are all words to be used in relation to the black and white's performance here, and how often could we do that this season?
Local lad Steven Taylor began the come-back with a towering header in the seventh minute from Danny Guthrie outswinging cross, with a little help from Kevin Nolan in blocking off his marker to free him for the header totally unmarked. A foul by Nolan? Perhaps, it was much like the move Liverpool have been pulling on people of late and yes, it probably was a foul but in our fortune the referee missed it and sheer delight ignited amongst the geordie public, amongst feelings of relief and ecstasy.
Newcastle dominated for much of the first half, with Mark Viduka hitting the post and the once again dissappointing Michael Owen also having one or two half-chances. A stalemate at 1-1 at the intervaland nerves were certainly jangling. Despite the domination and possession, as an experienced Newcastle fan, I have to say I feared the worst at this point. On numerous occasions in this season and season's past, we have played OK or dare I say, well, and wasted chances and then lost. With so much at stake, I doubted whether this team of over-paid under-achievers had what it takes to keep up the momentum and earn the valuable points we needed, but thank god that I was proven wrong.
The second half was frightening for long periods, with Boro, to their credit, always looking dangerous on the attack. Youngster Emnes, making his first-team debut, squandered a couple of decent chances whilst the pace of Boro on the attack was a concern. However, it has to be said that even players that I have labelled 'past it', were outstandinging and seen us through this difficult patch. Nicky Butt, Damien Duff and Mark Viduka were all oustanding, as were the rest of the lads, particularly Bassong, Taylor, Guthrie and Nolan. The hard work eventually paid off when Shearer made the move of the match, bringing off his mate Michael Owen who had a frustrating and pretty poor game, and boy did it pay off.
Within 55 seconds, Martins (Owen's replacement) was at hand to tuck away our second of the game with a neat finish in the 67th minute, again thanks to some good work from Guthrie and a nice little flick from Kevin Nolan, who actually had a hand in each of our goals. Shearer's super-sub was not all though, another was to follow. Guttierez who tried hard but delivered no end product was hauled off for free-transfer Peter Lovenkrands to be his replacement. Even at 2-1, Boro continued to pressure to make it a nervy end to a pulsating match. However, in the 85th minute, Lovenkrands pounced on a superb pass from Nolan with a neat finish to make it 3-1 and at last it seemed we could relax. Andy Carrol could have even made it four in the dying seconds but Martins delayed his pass and the move broke down.
All in all, we are not yet safe. This result does wonders for team spirit and confidence though and I now thoroughly expect us to beat Fulham next Saturday, whilst I cannot see neither Hull beating Bolton away, nor Boro beating Aston Villa at home next weekend. If this happens next week, then its fair to say that we will be in the Premier League next season. How this has happened is almost a shock as I, like many, truly believed we were doomed a long time ago.
However, with other results going our away of late, we are now actually out of the bottom three for the first time in, well, ages! Yes, now Hull City, Boro and West Brom occupy the dreaded drop-zone, whilst we are out for once due to our far superior goal difference (i think we are +10 on the others), which could prove crucial come the end of the season. Things are now in our hands, and the only people who can be blamed if we do now go down is ourselves, we simply have to beat Fulham at home on Saturday and judging by the latest victory, we are more than capable of doing so. Indeed, it seems there may in fact be light at the end of this very, very dark tunnel. Oh, and well done Shearer for the substitutions, lady luck is most definitely by your side!
Bring on Fulham, Howay the Lads!!!