Newcastle 0.v.2 Rovers
St. James' Park
5th May 2007. k/o 15:00
It is nothing short of incredible, but why can`t we perform like this all season? Why is it that Rovers don`t show they`re true quality until right at the end when almost everything is over?
Frustrating I hear you say and it is too true. However, we are winning and if we pull off an amazing feat of European qualification again then this will be looked on as an even better season than the last.
This side are lacking the little bit of luck needed to be a top team. Moments from an F A Cup final and inches from the quarters of the UEFA Cup. We HAVE to be playing in Europe again next season and I feel we deserve due to our efforts over this campaign with the injuries we have suffered.
Anyway, to the game. Well Mark Hughes made a single, expected change, bringing Tugay in for the injured David Dunn.
It was Rovers in the changed away strip that got things underway but in a frantic opening it was Newcastle who threatened early on and could have taken an early lead.
An excellent ball across from the elusive James Milner found Kieron Dyer but his guided header was repelled by Brad Friedel. This stirred Rovers and after David Bentley and Benni McCarthy had made a hash of a promising opening, Rovers were in front.
A whipped ball across the penalty by Stephen Warnock caught a dozy home defence out. Whereas half pushed up to play offside one didn`t, ultimately keeping McCarthy onside to volley home his 22nd goal from six-yards.
This was the spur Rovers needed to lift themselves and the majority of the first half was played out in front of Newcastle`s goal, well the majority of clear openings.
Rovers were twice denied by offside flags, first Jason Roberts after excellent play from McCarthy, who should have perhaps shot instead of passing and then David Bentley was denied after chipping the 'keeper. Bentley looked clearly onside which added to Rovers` frustration.
Morten Gamst Pedersen continued his horrendous form in front of goal when his volley was turned away by Steve Harper, deputising for the injured Shay Given.
Newcastle should have equalised just before half time but Scott Parker, when well placed skewed his shot straight at Friedel.
Rovers were firmly in control and the home faithful knew it.
The second half began with Newcastle desperately trying to pull level, well Michael Owen and James Milner, trying anyway.
Milner forced a save from Friedel with a free-kick, and Owen`s moment in an otherwise forgettable afternoon was soon to come.
It was a chance he created through his own skill and hard work. Hw spun off the shoulder of Chris Samba, who had otherwise smothered the pint sized striker, and nudged the ball beyond the advancing Friedel. All that was left was to apply the finish from a tight angle and his shot was inch perfect, complemented only by the timing and initiative of Samba, who expertly headed off the line.
This was the closest Newcastle came and after Gamst once again missed an excellent chance Rovers had the killer second, provided by one of the Premiership`s in-form strikers, Jason Roberts.
He headed home Bentley`s chipped cross after the England wannabe had jinked, twisted and spliced through the Newcastle defence.
It was another excellent and assured display and if Rovers can replicate this regularly next season then a successful campaign will ensue.
As it is European football is still very much alive, all we need to do is beat Spurs and Reading and hope for some decent results.
Neutralised one of the world's greatest strikers, and what a clearance off the line.