Scunthorpe 2 Newcastle United 1
HAVING already delayed a meeting with Mike Ashley to sign his new contract as permanent manager of Newcastle United, Chris Hughton would be advised to put pen to paper as quickly as possible. The way things are going for the Magpies, Ashley might well be on the verge of changing his mind. Thirteen years to the day since Kevin Keegans self-styled Entertainers were beating Manchester United 5-0, Hughtons current crop of Newcastle players slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Scunthorpe. Former York winger Martyn Woolfords second-half brace extended the Magpies winless run to four games and highlighted a number of deficiencies that have raised serious questions about Newcastles ability to sustain a promotion challenge for the rest of the campaign. Kevin Nolans 20-yard strike might have ended the visitors 265-minute goal drought midway through the second half, but despite creating plenty of other opportunities, Hughtons side could have few complaints after a spirited Scunthorpe proved more than their match. Newcastles defending was indisciplined throughout, and while the Iron might not boast the lustre of their highly-rated opponents, they proved their mettle in an entertaining and incident-packed encounter. The Magpies, on the other hand, appeared rusty long before Woolfords 79th-minute winner. Having come unstuck at Blackpools Bloomfield Road last month, the Magpies have now also lost at the equally unglamorous Glanford Park. Yet while Blackpool had knocked them off their stride through a combination of passion and effort, Scunthorpe simply outplayed Newcastle for much of last nights game. Ultimately, that was the most alarming thing of all. The Magpies might have anticipated an early storm in front of a capacity 9,000 crowd, but in a surprisingly low key opening, it was actually they who assumed the upper hand thanks to a combination of crisp passing and intelligent movement. Nolan drew two excellent saves from former Sunderland goalkeeper Joe Murphy before the game passed the quarter-hour mark. The first saw the stand-in striker direct a powerful header towards the top left-hand corner, only for Murphy to claw the ball to safety, and the second saw Nolan flicking an impudent backheel towards goal, only for Scunthorpes Republic of Ireland international to block his attempt at his near post. A third opportunity also went begging ten minutes before the break, but this time Nolan could not point to Murphys excellence as an excuse for his failure to make the breakthrough. Jonas Gutierrez pulled the ball back from the byline, and Nolan wastefully hooked it over the crossbar from no more than eight yards. Newcastle had already ceded their superiority by that stage, with both Guthrie and Geremi conceding possession with alarming regularity. Scunthorpe served notice of their threat when Woolford blazed over from 14 yards, and threatened again on the half-hour mark with Josh Wright shooting wide after Paul Hayes through ball threatened to carve the Newcastle defence open. The Magpies ended the first half firmly on the back foot, and would also have been in arrears had man-of-the-match Woolford not dragged a shot narrowly wide after Stockton-born centre-half Rob Jones nodded the ball down in the area. An energetic Enrique almost made Scunthorpe pay for their profligacy, flashing a ferocious drive inches wide of the upright in the opening two minutes of the second half, but the hosts came within inches of breaking the deadlock as Newcastles defence creaked again shortly after. Hayes flicked beyond a lightweight Danny Simpson, and Gary Hooper lashed the loose ball against the angle of post and crossbar with Harper well beaten. Suddenly, the visitors back four appeared alarmingly shaky, and when Zurab Khizanishvili lost his bearings in the 53rd minute, there was to be no reprieve. Newcastles on-loan Georgian allowed a long ball to drop beyond him, Hooper brushed him aside to win the ball, and after a pass was rolled across the face of the area, Woolford stroked an assured finish beyond Harper. It was a shame the dreadfully out-of-sorts Geremi did not show similar composure on the hour mark. The Cameroon international had time to steady himself after Gutierrez pulled the ball back from the left flank, but his miscued shot not only failed to find the target, it cleared the AMS Stand housing the visiting supporters behind the goal. Those supporters cheered when Geremi was substituted moments later, and they were on their feet again in the 65th minute as Newcastle got themselves back on level terms. Nolan played a measured one-two with Guthrie, and curled a delicate side-footed finish into the corner to claim his seventh goal of the campaign. Suddenly, Newcastle appeared the side likeliest to go and win the game, but instead Scunthorpe secured a winner with 11 minutes left. Sam Togwells through ball carved a hesitant Magpies defence wide open, and after stealing into space in the left-hand side of the area, Woolford casually rolled a composed finish into the corner. Goals: Woolford (53, 1-0), Nolan (65, 1-1), Woolford (79, 2-1) Bookings: Smith (68, foul), Jones (70, foul) Referee: Andy Penn (Walsall) - 6 Attendance: 8,921 Entertainment: PPP SCUNTHORPE (4-4-2): Murphy 7; Byrne 6, Mirfin 6, Jones 6, Williams 7; WOOLFORD 8 (Thompson 90), Togwell 6, Wright 5, McCann 6 (Wright 90); Hayes 7, Hooper 7 (Forte 79). Subs (not used): Slocombe (gk), Sparrow, Spence, Canavan. NEWCASTLE (4-4-1-1): Harper 5; R Taylor 5, Simpson 5, Khizanishvili 4, Enrique 7; Guthrie 6 (Ranger 87), Geremi 3 (Harewood 62, 5), Smith 5, Gutierrez 6; Nolan 7; Carroll 5. Subs (not used): Krul (gk), Kadar, Tozer, Donaldson, Lovenkrands. MAN OF THE MATCH: MARTYN Woolford Settled the game with two composed finishes and caused Newcastle problems from midfield throughout.
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