Newcastle United 2 Sheffield United 1: match report
They have a reputation for knowing how to party in Newcastle and Chris Hughton's team ensured that the promotion celebrations did not fall flat at St James' Park as they performed a lap of honour following a Kevin Nolan winner that was worthy of the Premier League. Nolans' brilliant 15th goal this term capped a splendid recovery that was resurgent Newcastle United in microcosm and had the normally reserved Hughton dancing with delight in the technical area as club owner Mike Ashley looked forward to a return to top-flight football that is said to be worth £60 million. Related ArticlesNewcastle revival timelineNewcastle return to top flightChampionship tableTelegraph player raterChampionship fixturesSport on televisionHughton's Championship leaders consolidated their grip on pole position despite having their fate decided before kick-off as they overcame Sheffield United striker Richard Cresswell's opener through Peter Lovenkrands' penalty before their skipper ensured the feel-good factor on Tyneside would increase as did their lead over second-placed West Bromwich Albion. Danny Guthrie and Wayne Routledge should have given the club's supporters something else to cheer early on and although they wasted very presentable chances it seemed nothing would dampen local spirits 316 days since the club's Premier League position was surrendered. However, an hour after Hughton's players had seen promotion secured on their dressing room televisions as Nottingham Forest 0-0 drew with Cardiff, there was a horrible feeling of deja vu as Kevin Blackwell's side seized a 22nd-minute lead. The visitors, on Tyneside following a run of one win in eight games, were not really up to much but didn't really have to be as they managed to find a way past Steve Harper as journeyman Cresswell rose to glance in Stephen Quinn's corner after shrugging off Fabricio Coloccini's half-hearted attempt at a challenge in the six-yard box. Cresswell's goal inevitably gave rise to a rendition of 'Premier League you're having a laugh' from travelling supporters relishing their role as gate-crashers, as their own hopes of following Newcastle out of the Championship via the play-offs were revived. Hughton ended up cursing players he had praised in a pre-match interview when promotion was confirmed. 'This is a wonderful achievement,' Hughton said. 'That we have secured promotion with six games to spare is testament to this set of players and how good a season they have had. 'This is what we have been building towards all season and I'm delighted for everyone associated with the club. Our focus now is on that because we want to celebrate promotion with victory in front of our magnificent fans.' Mindful of his sentiments, back came Newcastle and chances came and went for Routledge, Andy Carroll and then Lovenkrands before the Danish striker saw Geordie goalkeeper Steve Simonsen pull off a brilliant save to keep out his volley. The wastefulness, Simonsen's heroics and slack defending meant it had all the makings of one of a disappointing night but then Chris Morgan man-handled Andy Carroll as they awaited Guthrie's corner and referee Andy Hall correctly penalised the centre-half. Lovenkrands stepped up to the plate and duly leveled from the penalty spot when he sent Simonsen the wrong way in the 45th minute for his 15th goal of an emotionally-charged season for a player who dedicated his effort to his late father, Bent. As the celebrations receded, former Newcastle midfield mainstay and now Sheffield United coach Gary Speed was sent to the directors' box for his protests at the penalty. Lovenkrands continued to threaten Simonsen's goal and after seeing a rasping shot soar just over the crossbar he should have put his team ahead when he raced on to Jose Enrique's pass but off-balance he sliced the chance wide. The enigmatic Gutierrez then had the Gallowgate off its feet when he darted from the half-way line following Harper's throw, humiliating on-loan Sunderland defender Nyron Nosworthy before rattling a post. The pressure was intensifying and the visitors' resistance was broken in the 71st minute when Morgan et al failed to clear their lines and Nolan beat Simonsen with an acrobatic volley which suggested he will cope with life back in the top flight. Guthrie would have increased Newcastle's lead late on but was denied by the inspired Simonsen before he thwarted Nolan after he took aim again from distance. Even though substitute Shola Ameobi slotted home the rebound only to see the assistant referee raise his flag for offside in stoppage time, nothing was going to spoil this extraordinary evening. Hardly a soul left early as the lap of honour ensued. It was just like the good old days as Newcastle re-discovered its pride.
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