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Peterborough 2 Newcastle United 3: match report
Published : 03 Apr 2010 18:20:39
A demoralising drop from the Premier League last summer threatened to send Newcastle United into a distressing tailspin but their rejuvenation is almost complete. The elite remains tantalisingly out of reach despite victory over Peterborough United, following Bristol City's failure to beat Nottingham Forest, but a St James' Park clash with Sheffield United provides the chance to complete their objective in style. Related ArticlesNolan hails Newcastle 'revolution'Hughton wants to extend Newcastle dealBilly Davies: Ashley must spend bigNewcastle 2 Forest 0Hughton: I was right to stand by CarrollNewcastle keep their focusThat would be some prize for a tortured fanatical following. After all, the Championship was supposed to be arduous for a club beset by internal divisions and a collective belief rapidly draining away. Under the inconspicuous yet astute guidance of Chris Hughton, though, Newcastle have made a mockery of this particular assault course. 'There's a relief that we got the result,' he suggested. 'We're nearly there. It would've been nice for (promotion) to have been today but it's in our hands. Hopefully we can finish the job. They dealt with the pitch better than us. They never threatened the goal too much and the (Nolan) goal gave us that massive lift we needed before half time.' Newcastle have not regularly played the delightfully choreographed football expected of domineering leaders but the aesthetic means so little when controlled play and professionalism wear opponents down. In the opening period Peterborough were pugnacious and tore into Newcastle and their performance merited a stay of execution from relegation to League One, granted after Sheffield Wednesday and Watford failed to win. The inevitability of demotion has given Peterborough the freedom of expression and London Road has been the scene of bloody-minded resistance this term. Lone forward, Liam Dickinson, excelled at holding up play and he scrambled back a goal in the second period to shudder Newcastle. There was an explosiveness on the left too from Scott Griffiths, a raw youngster plucked from lower league football determined to make his mark, and penetrative spurts forward on the other flank from Kerrea Gilbert. Gary Johnson, recently of Bristol City and at London Road with an interest in replacing Jim Gannon, must have been encouraged by such tenacity. 'He would be an ideal candidate for this club,' Gannon said. The outgoing manager waxed lyrical about the fashion in which his players confronted a side who have overpowered many others this season. 'In the first half we played some of the best football since I've been here, even though we didn't get going in the second half,' he enthused, before he was asked about Newcastle's prospects in the Premier League next season. 'That's a big question,' Gannon replied with a smile. Such reticence was warranted since Newcastle were damaged by their own calamity as much as Peterborough's verve. When Gilbert launched a pass forward there appeared little danger but Steve Harper collided with Fabricio Coloccini and Dominic Green lobbed the ball into the net. Such defensive lapses will not be tolerated by Premier League opposition and any recidivism would be fatal. Hughton, so publicly mild-mannered, was soon furiously berating Fabrice Pancrate for relinquishing possession and hauled him off at half time. Yet Peterborough intertwined resilience with panache. Tommy Rowe played a delightful reverse ball into Lee Frecklington, whose burst into the box was stopped by Jose Enrique. Newcastle, though, have been accompanied by unpredictability over the last 18 months and it was a surprise to see Nolan bundle in Enrique's delivery in first half stoppage time. They did not assume control after that but were clinical opportunists. Minutes into the second half Gabriel Zakuani felled Shola Ameobi and Joey Barton, whose season has been ravaged by injury, curled in the free-kick. The goal failed to inhibit Peterborough but Newcastle picked them off again when Ameobi picked up Leon Best's pass and fired past Joe Lewis. The 4,107-strong travelling support waited feverishly for news of a Bristol City winner but they have been made to wait for their moment of redemption.