Class War report from St James Park (V. Birmingham)

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Jan 6 2005 10:31
Class War report from St James Park (V. Birmingham)

Newcastle 2 - 1 Birmingham

Attendance 52222 1.1.05

First Win in 8 for Newcastle

Newcastle and their manager Graeme Souness had the blues, but after beating the Blues a little of that pressure will be off, and they will be hoping the New Year brings further joy.

The game started at a reasonable tempo, with the Magpies doing the running. Typical of this was Craig Bellamy’s fourth cross into the box in the first six minutes that created Newcastle’s first goal. Shola Ameobi headed it in, off the underside of the cross bar.

Bellamy was skipping past Blues defender, Olivier Tebily, so easily that their manager, Steve Bruce, resorted to a tactical change as early as the 25th minute. Stan Lazaridis was asked to slip back into the left back position, and the substitute, Julian Gray, was to fill in on the left side of midfield. A position he was to fill competently.

There was still to be virtually one-way traffic towards the Blues goal however. The Blues created next to nothing in the first half, only having 3 corners the entire match, and Robbie Savage was having an off day just like the rest of his team. It was an inexplicable loss of confidence, except perhaps for a New Year hangover, given that the Blues had not lost in 7 and were marching up the premiership prior to this game.

The Blues were to have a couple of warnings of what was to come, as their goalkeeper, Maik Taylor, turned a couple of attempts by an energetic Lee Bowyer out for corners. King Canute was to have as little effect on the downpour onto an already bumpy surface, as he was in stopping the black and white tide.

Laurent Robert had already supplied Bowyer for chances, and Robert seized upon the next opportunity to cross when Mario Melchiot slipped on the dodgy surface in the 44th minute. Bowyer ran onto, and neatly despatched the ball into the bottom corner from 15 yards out. A just reward for the dominance of their midfield of Bowyer, Kieron Dyer and Jermaine Jenas.

Steve Bruce delivered a stinging team talk at half time, and the Blues were to make a game of it in the second half. The pitch chipped in with another chance for the Magpies, when Blues captain, Kenny Cunningham, slipped. Ameobi took the ball on his chest and blasted a long shot just over from outside the box. The Blues were to have their first meaningful chance shortly after, when Clinton Morrison headed towards goal. This found the Magpies ‘keeper, Shay Given, surprisingly awake given his previous lack of saves, tipping the ball neatly over. The resulting corner came to nothing, though the Blues did score in the 64th minute. Gray flicked onto Morrison, who bisected the defence to find Emile Heskey on the left in the Magpies box, and who finished with aplomb into the left corner.

Birmingham pressed for an equaliser, but the Magpies previously leaky defence found itself good enough, despite having conceded 29 goals in second half’s so far this season. Though they tried, the Blues were not as naturally creative as the Magpies. Bowyer and Dyer were to have the last serious goal attempts, with Dyer being particularly skilful. His shot deserved to go in, instead of crashing against the bar from the edge of the box.

After the match Souness was glowing about Dyer, who had managed to get himself into many a Magpies bad book, by openly questioning the wisdom of previous Newcastle manager and icon, Bobby Robson. Bruce also commented that “we were awful in the first half. Newcastle ripped us to pieces. It was as big a doing in the first half as we’ve had all season.”