Newcastle United v Everton


FA Carling Premiership 96/97 - Game 24
Wednesday 29 January 1997
St James' Park, Newcastle

Result: Newcastle United (0) 4 - Everton (1) 1
Speed (3); Ferdinand (74), Lee (79), Shearer (pen:83), Elliott (90)

Newcastle United: Hislop, Watson, Elliott, Peacock, Albert, Batty, Lee, Beardsley (Asprilla, 57), Shearer, Ferdinand, Gillespie (Barton, 85).
Subs Not Used: Srnicek, Ginola, Clark. Booked: Batty, Shearer

Everton: Gerrard, Barrett, Unsworth, Watson, Phelan, Stuart, Speed, Thomsen, Parkinson, Short (28 Grant (81 Rideout)), Ferguson.
Booked: Stuart, Parkinson.
Subs Not Used: Southall, Barmby, Allen. Unavailable: Hinchcliffe, Ebbrell, O'Connor, Branch, Kanchelskis (injured).

Ref: M Riley Att: 36,143 League Position: 8th Results and League Table

Previous Match (FA Cup) Everton v Bradford City
Previous League Match: Arsenal v Everton - Next Match: Everton v Nottingham Forest

Match Summary

SoccerNet (John Richardson): Everton slumped to a club record equalling-sixth successive League defeat as Newcastle broke their hearts with four goals in the last 16 goals. Newcastle came from behind in devastating style to put the pressure right back on Everton manaer Joe Royle after Gary Speed boosted the visitors by giving them a third-minute lead.

Royle axed Wales goalkeeper Neville Southall for the first time in 15 years and dumped £5.75 million Nicky Barmby on to the substitute's bench. The response was almost immediate. In Everton's second attack they were awarded a free kick just outside the box and Speed exploded a fierce shot into the corner.

Newcastle looked as if they were still suffering from their FA Cup hangover after the defeat by Nottingham Forest - but all that changed when Les Ferdinand equalised after 74 minutes.

Robert Lee fired Newcastle ahead with an acrobatic volley from 15 yards five minutes later; substitute Faustino Asprilla was brought down in the box by Claus Thomsen and Alan Shearer converted from the spot for his 20th goal of the season; and Robbie Elliott scrambled the fourth in injury time.

Stuck in a Dark, Dank Corner

Guy McEvoy: Every time I visit a ground, I come away thinking: "Well, that must be as bad a possible view as you can ever get of a game," and then the next ground I end up at proves that my hopeless optimism is, as always, misguided. So there I was, stuck at St James with all-time new depths of lack of view, tucked away second row in a corner, all five goals being banged in at the other end and blocked out by policeman's helmets. Consequently, I can only really give general impressions rather than any meaningful account of the action.

The team news left many scratching their heads: no Barmby, no Southall, no Kanchelskis. The rumour machine (for once well founded) accounted for the later, but the first two remained a bold gamble by Joe. Thomsen slotted up with Parkinson in central midfield, Short, Unsworth and Watson held the line giving Phelan and Barrett the wing-back roles.

First Half

So the game kicked off and we braced ourselves for a slaughter; instead we were quickly sent into delirium. Duncan had already just put one wide when a run by Stuart gave us a free kick outside the box. Speed was the man who lined it up, cracked it, and the reaction of the players told us where it had ended up.

The moment was spoiled by the police. I'd been warned before hand that these guys were over the top but, having been to 'Boro, I thought I was ready for it. These nutters were on a different level though. You stand up. Out. You swear. Out. Look like you're enjoying yourself. Out. The bloke behind me stood up and faced our fans and tried to get a chorus of 'their a grand old team to play for...' going, he got that far then was dragged out by his arms and legs, his protests earning him a slap. Enough said.

Back on the field, things were going along nicely. Newcastle looked unsettled and Everton at least looked like they had a bit of shape back. Everyone knew where everyone else was supposed to be, -- something that seems to have been lacking for the last few matches. It was back-to-basics stuff for Royal, Thomsen alongside Parkinson (though sounding uninspiring) reminded me of the old 'Dogs' tag and the battle in midfield looked to be going our way. The few times the Toon were breaking clear, the defence was adequately containing any threat.

Newcastle's frustration started to boil over into the physical and a number of scuffle type exchanges started to creep in. I missed the actual incident but somehow Short, as he seems to do about once every three months, took a knock on the head that left the red stuff gushing. The quick reorganisation was to shove Thomsen back to fill the hole left by Short, and bring Grant on to partner Parkinson. Grant, despite being a good deal lighter than Thomsen, did his best to keep the dog spirit going and we managed, still comfortably, to hold off any real threats till half time.

The Geordie girl I was at the game with looked a bit upset, so I prophetically pointed out to her that we only ever play for 45 minutes and that the Toon would probably tonk four past us in the second half. Mystic Meg, eat your heart out!

Second Half

As it happened, it wasn't quite the abysmal second half performance I was expecting (or that the score-line suggests). We kept at them, and threw away a gilt-edged chance to go two up when Grant came up with one of his periodic wonder passes to put Duncan through on a one-on-one with Hislop. How different it all would have been had Duncan found the finish the move had demanded. Nevertheless, we still looked capable of holding them, the Evertonians continued to assert a side of Dalglish's sexuality that his wife may not be too familiar with, and the Geordie girl with me continued to look uneasy.

Inevitably though, a turning point came, and it was the introduction of Aspirilla in place of the great Peter Beardsley. From then on in, Newcastle finally looked like championship contenders, and Everton's so far adequate performance was shown to be no more than that. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Yes, Newcastle enjoyed not a little luck in these goals but blaming luck in this one can only account for the scoreline and not the defeat itself.

In quarter of an hour, all that hard-earned hope was smashed by a team that got itself together and simply started to play better than us. The difference between us was that they could find the inspiration to lift themselves when they most needed it and we couldn't.

The Evertonians quietened to the point of shell shock, Newcastle fans finally found song, and the Geordie girl sat on hands completely unable to suppress the smuggest grin I've ever seen. The police moved in to remove anyone who dared stand up and offer 'advice' to the team, and all once more seemed rather sorry with the world.

A fans mood is said to mirror the fortunes of his team. I'm therefore avoiding all tall buildings, sharp objects and railway lines.

Individual Performances:

You can't afford to miss those chances...

Robbie Newton: Everton are going to end up in a relegation battle this season -- not because we're not good enough, but rather because lady luck prefers to shine on our opponents. Everton were 'tonked' by Newcastle, so the score suggests -- but in fact, Everton were desperately unlucky to lose by such a convincing margin.

The pre-match atmosphere at Newcastle is depressing. There's no singing (and the music was dreadful and deafening) and no entertainment (apart from watching Mark Lawrenson making a complete prat of himself trying to be cool). The Newcastle crowd is very over-rated. They only sang when they were winning and moaned like there's no tomorrow when they were losing. If you think our fans have been giving our players stick recently, you should pop along to St James' Park once in a while.

First Half

Unfortunately, the match entertainment was not much better. A lot of Evertonians went to the game fully expecting a hiding. So we were very happy (ok then, delirious) when Duncan Ferguson found himself with a free shooting chance inside 50 seconds. He missed when he should easily have scored and the inevitable cries of "Oh that's it, game over, you can't afford to miss those chances" started.

Just a whole minute later and there was absolute joy in the Everton end. Stuart was tripped just outside the box, and Gary Speed stepped up to hammer home a glorious free-kick. 1-0 to Everton after just 2 minutes. Three minutes later and it could have been an unlikely 2-0 score-line when Ferguson headed straight at Hislop.

Our fans were in full-voice (as I requested!), singing the variety of songs from "Royal Blue Jersey" to "Grand Old Team" to "My Only Everton", and the usual chants of "Ev-er-ton". Just for a laugh, "Kenny Dalglish is a homosexual" was also sung. The noise from our corner was deafening, although it always seems a lot louder when you're part of it or nearby.

Everton's defence was resilient and there was a genuine pride in the Everton shirt, for the first time in a long while. Newcastle didn't even threaten our goal, although they should have had a penalty when Unsworth literally threw Shearer to the floor. The Toon Army were up in arms, and so a gentle gesture of "Calm Down" was directed at them.

Unsworth was having a fine game. He looked solid, pacey, dependable and back to the Unsworth of two seasons ago. Watson was equally comfortable, but again seemed less commanding. Barrett was having a good game, and Phelan was probably having his best 45 minutes for a few years.

It was 1-0 to us at half-time, a slender lead but one we were very pleased to have. The loss of Craig Short in the 21st minute (with yet ANOTHER head injury!) was to prove vital.

Second Half

The second half started with the home team coming at us with all guns blazing. But it was Everton who had the first clear cut opportunity of the half. Ferguson raced through and shot wide. A bad miss that would ultimately prove costly.

Dogleash must have spoken some harsh words at half-time. We coped reasonably well up until the 74 minute when the game turned. And how. Newcastle got an equaliser through, obviously, Les Ferdinand. It wasn't clever defending by Everton -- in fact the goal came gift-wrapped with ribbons on.

For the next few minutes I had to stand up and watch, as the bloke sitting two seats to the right of me decided to kick-off on the Newcastle fan in front who celebrated when the Geordies scored.

"Oi, don't you jump here. Come on, d'ya wanna go eh? Come on, me and you now, just us two."

The Police made their way up to our row and about five of them stood in my way so I couldn't see a thing.

"Are you gonna let me sit down then or wha'?"

I said. None of them even listened! They just kept arguing about whether the Newcastle fan should have been in our end. There was more than just one as well -- there were three behind me and another two in front again.

If that wasn't bad enough, two of my mates' teachers in school were sitting just two seats (to our left) away! Not ideal, considering he'd bunked off school to go, and even worse considering some of the language he used in the first half (not knowing they were there)!

Eventually the Toon fans in front were taken to sit somewhere else, and peace was restored.

And then Stuart had a chance to put us in the lead again. The ball sat up nicely for him in the six yard box, but he fluffed the easy opportunity and the writing was on the wall.

Then a goal. To Newcastle. Apalling defending, and a sweet strike by Robert Lee was the cause of it. Another five minute spell were our defence just totally fell apart. Obviously, people will point out that Kenny Dogleish made a tactical master-stroke by putting Asprilla on, but up to that point he was ineffectual.

The next goal was when the gangly-legged Colombian became effectual. He dribbled around Thomsen with ease, but was felled by the Danish international for a Newcastle penalty. Shearer stepped up and it was 3-1. Just over ten minutes ago we had a 1-0 lead and it had been totally wiped out.

The next goal I only saw on the television set situated underneath the stand cos I had decided that I had seen enough and had left my seat. I now wish I hadn't seen it because my fears about Gerrard had been confirmed. A harmless shot (?) came in and he just seemed to let go of the ball and Elliott stroked in the reboud. 4-1 flamin' one.

Somone needs to tell our defence that a game lasts for 90 minutes, not just 74. All the hard work in the first half had been wasted. Our formation tonight was a defensive one. Just imagine if we had gone out with an attacking formation. It could have been a Spurs.

Team Ratings


Dave Shepherd: Newcastle is a sprawling city stuck 60 miles above the rest of modern civilisation and another 80 road miles below any more. Its isolation has had the effect of turning it into as unique a culture as those infesting the Galapagos Islands.

It's a nightmare of urban freeways... Navigating is hopeless because the roadmap looks like a cutaway diagram of the intestines. Somewhere in the middle of the labyrinth, tucked impossibly between surprisingly extensive University properties and a major city-centre route named after the ancient Northern Warden Lords Percy is a 1990s football stadium, looking as out of place as a vibrator on a chessboard.

A difficult enough fixture as it is, Everton FC as a whole was stuck slap in the middle of major upheavals. Most of the day had been spent haggling to unload Kanchelskis to Fiorentina for a fee almost 50% up on the price paid 17 months ago, and Neville Southall had been dropped to the bench for reasons unknown. The days' rumours had forecast this, but not the similar benching of Nick Barmby.

The lineup thus had Thomsen in midfield with Parkinson, and Unsworth added to make a back 5. Whether it was the formation or the shakeup, it worked instantly, with a good chance from the kickoff, and a Speed goal from a free kick 2 minutes later.

The away crowd, with a plentiful complement of 'Geordie blues' were delirious and all recent trouble were forgotten.. "We love you Everton.." was the top theme for the rest of the half.

Indeed the game continued to favour the Blues, who battled well past the 10 minute mark and were hungry to snap up the plentiful passing mistakes of the home team.

Then Craig Short turned up on the floor. Curled up in a ball no-one seemed to know what had happened, but whatever it was, it effectively ended Everton's game. He was subbed off some minutes later for Grant, and Thomsen was dropped into the back five. Instantly Everton's attacking progress dried up, and was reduced to the kind of embarrassing garbage we expect and do see from low division teams - massed defence and a striker or two lurking at the half way line for breakaway attacks.

Even so it took a whole 50 minutes and two substitutions for the Magpies to regain their confidence in front of their inanimate and unforgiving fans. Fifty minutes on top of a one-goal lead already held for 25 minutes, away to a dangerous attacking team when points and a reversal of zero luck and zero form are becoming more essential than desirable.. and Everton's solution?

It was so staggeringly obvious that to hold out for the rest of the game was going to be impossible that we could see this coming long before half-time. The comparisons to the Man Utd away game were already strong, from the cycling-arena stadium and high corner spec to the unexpected half time lead and the grey depressed home atmosphere.

Yet continue they did. It was very poor football and it was embarrassing. Everton looked like a 3rd division outfit dreaming of a holding on for a miracle cup win. Our nerves were tested again and again as Gerrard kept flapping hopelessly at high balls and clearances went straight back to ugly striped shirts. Jeremy Henderson and I agreed that more appropriate sponsors for Everton would be B&H and Grecian 2000.

In fact the low-division tactic might even have worked if one of the handful of breakaway chances so created had been converted. Graham Stuart had a couple, one of which you'd have put money on him converting, and in another Duncan was running alone with the whole goal to choose from and hit it straight at Hislop. More often the story was that progress up a wing by Speed or Stuart would falter and die because support was too slow or not interested in arriving.

Having been undone by one individual player on Saturday, it was not surprising to be undone by another single player. Worse, for the sake of English football, it was Beardsley who went off and one of the foreign mercenaries who came on. Only subbed on in the 57th minute, Asprilla passed for the second goal after the first was hit desperately through a crowd, and cruised past the right-wing cover, Thomsen, to draw him into a tackle as suicidal as Everton's whole tactics to swell Shearer's 'goal' tally. When the pressure had finally cracked the dam wall, the damage was irreversible, and devastating. So die all one-goal-lead- -defenders.

If there was any Everton response to make an effort to claw back a point, it didn't show. Instead the psychologically frail humbug players were all full of confidence, and the psychologically damaged humbug supporters took the opportunity not only to break their silent, motionless vigil and celebrate a bit, but engaged in gratuitous taunting of the Everton fans, quite irrelevant to the match and inappropriate to their unconvincing method of accumulating points.

With support as monochrome as their shirts, it was easy to see the reason why they choked - their own so fans don't support, they just turn up to cheer goals and get angry when none come. High chairs might be more appropriate than plastic seats.

So St James's Park became the 50th league ground I have visited to watch football. Nice symmetry, therefore, that I went in with Pete Butland who had never been to an away match before. I would never have reached 50 if all away-experiences were this unpleasant, so don't give up on them yet, Pete!

Even as we left the ground and the repli-kit army cheered Wimbledon's latest score, the Dons too were doing a late fold-up.

Also the news updated to say that Fiorentina had stumped up 8 million and AK was gone. The morning after the rumours are now onto the mysteriously absent Barmby..

Forget Grecian 2000. Unless Joe's up to being the football equivalent of Red Adaire and can repair the burst floodgates, a more appropriate sponsor for the rest of the season is going to be Adult Pampers.


TEAM PERFORMANCE 6 At first worth 8, but suicidal tactics, terrible passes and weak finishing warrant 4 and thus drag the score down.

Ref: M Riley (Leeds) Very good overall, only one or two mistakes, but coped with a constant barrage of Newcastle's 'professional tactics' fouls supported by orchestrated crowd indignancy. Only his control stopped the game deteriorating into another multi-red card farce like the Ellaray game.

Lesson in Scoring Easy Goals

Peter Griffiths:Hell of a journey but for a long time an enjoyable night. Very impressed with the stadium which does look planned rather than a collection of non-matching stands thrown together.

We were well worth the lead at half time and I thought it was ordained that we could hang on. Newcastle came stronger and stronger in the second half but 4 goals in the last 16 minutes after what had gone before was unreal.

This was back to dogs of war and an attempt at solid defence but our breakouts looked dangerous and had their very shaky defence and even more shaky goalkeeper worried. We again missed at least four golden chances and the blunt truth is that, had we had Shearer up front, we would have been 3-0 up with the game killed off. Dunc missed two good chances and so did Graham Stuart.

The result does hide a pretty good performance for 75% of the match.

Other points:-

  1. Neville would not have let in the last goal and and seems to have trained his young understudy in unimpressive punching.
  2. Police and stewards very pro-active with people being thrown out for persistently standing up.
  3. Standard chant appeared to be "Kenny Dalgleash is a homosexual" and I was expecting Peter Beardsley to argue at any moment. This "homophobia" may be the next thing that is thrown at us on 606.
  4. Speed had a brilliant game and was everywhere with Phelan also more effective. Unsworth was back to reliable defensive duties.
  5. Dunc has to start popping in the easy ones. He had donkey cries all night at Toon and could have shut them up. I like him, we wrote to him in jail (with no reply), JR has a lot of credibility invested in him, I have argued his case but a striker has to but in soft chances. We must give him proper service and stop walloping lobs at him but he must start scoring more goals.

The "scoring easy goals" remark also applies to Graham Stuart, Nicky Barmby and to a lesser extent Speedy.

Newcastle bounce back

Simon Turnbull, The Independent: When Everton last won at St James' Park, on Boxing Day 1986, they went on to lift the championship. Joe Royle would have been happy enough if the overdue victory promised by Gary Speed's third-minute goal merely lifted the managerial noose which has been tightening around his neck of late.

As it was, the Everton manager left Tyneside still suffering from the Blues after watching his team lose the lead and four goals in the last 16 minutes. The introduction of Faustino Asprilla did more than anything to condemn the Merseysiders to their sixth successive League defeat, equalling their worst-ever losing run.

After Les Ferdinand struck the equaliser, the Columbian teed up Robert Lee for Newcastle's second and was then upended by Claus Thomsen for a penalty Alan Shearer converted for his 20th goal of the season. A scrambled injury-time effort by Robbie Elliott completed Everton's sudden collapse.

Everton nose-dived into their losing run on their last visit to the North-east when Juninho sliced through the Toffees in the second half of the Boxing day match at Middlesbrough. Royle's attempt to find a desperate remedy included leaving Andrei Kanchelskis on Merseyside for talks with Fiorentina and Nick Barmby's relegation to bench duty in addition to Neville Southall's expected demotion.

Newcastle went into last night's game with concerns of their own and recalls for Philippe Albert, Steve Watson and Keith Gillespie did little to stabilise a team rocked by Ian Woan's late brace in the FA Cup on Sunday. Quite the opposite in fact.

Right from the kick-off the Newcastle defence was at sixes and sevens. Elliott's ponderous touch gifted Duncan Ferguson a first-minute chance he should have buried and 90 seconds later the ball was in the back of Shaka Hislop's net.

Lee fouled Graham Stuart some five yards outside the area and Speed's low shot somehow eluded the black and white wall and hit its intended target. Speed's left foot came within a whisker of a second goal 12 minutes later, courtesy of a botched clearance by Albert, as confidence palpably spread through the Everton ranks.

Their manager's heart must have been further warmed by the sight of a giant banner proclaiming 'Joe Royle, True Blue, Must Stay' on prominent display among the visiting fans. It was the local natives, in fact, who were the restless ones as Newcastle reached half-time without registering a shot on target.

The home players were booed off at the break and with little to cheer about in the opening stages of the second half. Kenny Dalglish reached for his Aspro to ease a looming headache. Within two minutes of his introduction, at Peter Beardsley's expense, Asprilla went closer than his colleagues had managed in the previous hour to beating Gerrard. Newcastle, though, had Ferguson's profligacy to thank for still being in the hunt.

Royle on the rack as Newcastle stage 16-minute rout

Michael Walker, The Guardian: There have been times when there has been little to love about the Everton team that has evolved under Joe Royle, but you had to feel sympathy for them and their manager last night. One goal ahead for over an hour, courtesy of Gary Speed's bullet of a free-kick in the second minute, they wasted chance after chance and ultimately paid a high price: four Newcastle goals in the last 16 minutes.

All too predictably, speculation will increase about Royle's future after what was a record-equalling sixth consecutive league defeat for Everton, and yet, but for the collapse, there was plenty to admire about their effort.

Not just guts but good tackling and fluent passing; had Ferguson produced a more convincing finish on any of three occasions before Newcastle equalised, the home team might have been denied the chance.

'Very, very harsh,' was Royle's verdict on the final score, a view backed up by Kenny Dalglish, who said: 'The scoreline was one that Everton did not deserve and probably flattered us. That's a little corner turned.'

At least that is what Dalglish hopes, because Newcastle's manager must have been gnashing his teeth for 74 minutes at the sheer ineptitude of his new charges. Elliot, Gillespie and Beardsley were particularly guilty of wasting possession and Newcastle were shockingly bereft of imagination until Asprilla replaced Beardsley just before the hour.

Everton still looked comfortable, as they had done since the opening minutes when a more composed toe-poke from Ferguson would have fully exploited Elliot's comical stumble in the opening minutes. And within 60 seconds more they had taken the lead. Speed, for an hour the game's most influential player, scored with a blistering free-kick from 22 yards.

Rather than being roused, Newcastle slouched and when Speed and Ferguson went close with a volley and a header the Gallowgate end roared its disapproval. Their anger beame even louder after half-time, when first Stuart and then Ferguson wasted opportunities.

The equaliser's origin, a free-kick for a foul on Shearer four minutes later, was disputed by Everton. When Elliot pulled the ball in, it fell to the unmarked Ferdinand, who gave it a gleeful lash.

Five minutes later Newcastle scored a barely deserved second goal after Asprilla escaped Unsworth's clutches and crossed to the far post, where Lee supplied a scorching volley.

With confidence returning, Asprilla then fooled Thomsen into a late lunge in the penalty area, Shearer stroked in the spot-kick, and then in injury time Elliott dragged in a fourth.

Elliott had shown great perseverance on a difficult night, as did all the Newcastle players. It is an attribute Everton need to show against Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

Report Copyright The Guardian

Newcastle stage late goal burst

Nicholas Spencer, Electronic Telegraph: NEWCASTLE won the battle of the teams turned over on their own patches in the FA Cup, four goals in the final 16 minutes restoring Tyneside morale while condemning Everton to a sixth successive League defeat. According to Joe Royle, the Everton manager, the run has highlighted the narrow line between success and failure, and it was never better illustrated by a side who led for 61 minutes and ended up equalling the club's worst sequence for 25 years.

Faustino Asprilla was the match-winner, appearing to stunning effect to create Newcastle's second -- a powerful volley from Robert Lee -- with an enticing cross and then inducing the penalty-winning tackle from Claus Thomsen from which Alan Shearer made the points safe. The result flattered the home team but the potency and variety of their attacking options is awesome and left-back Robbie Elliott rubbed salt in the wound with a fourth goal, deep in added time.

Much has been made of Kevin Keegan's defensive legacy to Kenny Dalglish, but his new charges are showing a vulnerability to the long-range shot. Already, in the four matches since Dalglish arrived, Mark Robson, Matthew Le Tissier, Ian Woan (twice) and now Gary Speed have scored from distance.

While Andrei Kanchelskis, subject of a reported £6 million offer from Fiorentina, remained the chief subject of pre-match discussion, Royle's search for a winning combination led him to drop Nick Barmby and Neville Southall. An Italian delegation flew to Liverpool yesterday, with Luciano Luna, the Fiorentina managing director, confident of securing Kanchelskis's signature before tonight's transfer deadline. "We've already agreed terms with Kanchelskis over salary and the length of the contract," he said.

Everton had the lead inside 2.5 minutes. Lee was penalised for bringing down Graham Stuart, and Speed's shot, from almost 30 yards, was too powerful for the defensive wall and found the bottom corner of Shaka Hislop's net. The goal was no aberration, however. While Newcastle's nervy young full-backs transmitted their uncertainty to all around them, Everton relished hunting and winning the ball.

Speed was unlucky to see a right-foot volley pass narrowly wide, and only a fine covering header from Elliott prevented the visitors converting a delightful one-touch move. The loss of Craig Short, bleeding from a head wound, before the half-hour, threatened to upset Everton's rhythmic stride, particularly as his replacement was the altogether slighter figure of Tony Grant.

Everton prepared themselves for a long haul as Newcastle won a succession of corners and free-kicks. From one flag kick, Les Ferdinand headed Gillespie's far-post ball over. Then Asprilla announced his arrival, in place of Beardsley, with a promising volley.

Paul Gerrard rode his luck, though, notably when David Unsworth inadvertently re-directed David Batty's cross towards his own goal. The ball was heading inside the near post until the goalkeeper stuck out his left foot. Sixteen minutes from time the intolerable pressure earned its reward: Elliott's free-kick fell invitingly for Ferdinand, who took deliberate aim for the bottom left-hand corner from 12 yards. From then on it went from bad to worse for Everton.

Newcastle finish with a flourish

David Maddock, The Times: IT WAS a night of comebacks, but Newcastle United did much more than that. They produced an escape of Houdini proportions when, trailing a superior Everton side and playing without purpose or direction, they somehow found a four-goal flourish in the last 16 minutes.

Quite how they did it taxed even the most faithful of their believers but it undoubtedly had something to do with the inspirational qualities of Faustino Asprilla. His presence when injected into the fray after 57 minutes was significant, as much for his influence on the St James' Park crowd as for his trickery.

"Tino lifted our supporters and inspired them," Kenny Dalglish, the Newcastle manager, said. "You think he's shattered, but when he gets the ball at his feet, he comes alive. I was impressed by his sharpness after such a lay-off."

Asprilla had not played for nearly two months, because of hamstring trouble, but within minutes of his return, he exposed an Everton defence that had been untroubled and in control.

It was an astonishing resurrection, instigated by Ferdinand's scrappy equaliser on 74 minutes, but owing even more to Asprilla's assists for the second and third goals. Yet, if Asprilla rightly took the plaudits, Everton must take some of the blame for missing a series of chances. They had taken the lead after two minutes with a 20-yard free kick that screamed into the net from Gary Speed's left foot. Even before the goal, Everton contrived to miss a chance when Ferguson slipped a shot past Hislop but beyond the unguarded net.

It was to be a recurrent theme, with Ferguson planting a tame header at Hislop midway through the first half, and then crucially missing the best chance of the match minutes later.

"It was totally cruel ­ a very, very harsh scoreline. They did not have a chance for 74 minutes and we had three or four opportunities to make the game safe," Joe Royle, the under-pressure Everton manager, said. "But I can't be disheartened by a performance like that, because we played well."

Apart from the final 15 minutes that is, when their defence caved in under a pressure that reminded one of the passionate early-Keegan era. It took a slightly fortunate goal, when Ferguson failed to clear properly an Elliott free kick and Ferdinand volleyed firmly from ten yards, to set things in motion.

Then it was Aprilla's turn. He turned up the heat, and volume, with a series of mazy dribbles that culminated in a run and cross from the right on 80 minutes that allowed Robert Lee to lash home an impressive volley. Four minutes later and it was all over, Shearer converting a penalty after Thomsen dragged Asprilla down in the area.

Elliott, the left back, somehow popping up at inside right, added a fourth to make the scoreline, even according to Dalglish, "flattering in the extreme".

Results and League Table

Wednesday, 29 January 1997

ASTON VILLA             0-1    SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY       26,726
LEEDS UNITED            0-0    DERBY COUNTY              27,549  

LEICESTER CITY          1-1    SUNDERLAND                17,883  
Parker(pen:32)                 Williams(18)
MANCHESTER UNITED       2-1    WIMBLEDON                 55,314  
Giggs(76) Cole(83)             Perry(61)
NEWCASTLE UNITED        4-1    EVERTON                   36,143  
Ferdinand(74) Lee(79)          Speed(3)
Shearer(pen:83) Elliott(90)
NOTTINGHAM FOREST       0-1    COVENTRY CITY             22,619  
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR       2-1    BLACKBURN ROVERS          22,943  
Iversen(41) Sinton(83)         Hendry (57)
WEST HAM UNITED         1-2    ARSENAL                   24,382  
Rose(og:63)                    Parlour(8) Wright(67)  

Table after 29 January 1997

Club                          P    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD  Pts
Manchester United            24   13    8    3   48   27   21   47
Arsenal                      24   13    7    4   44   23   21   46
Liverpool                    24   13    7    4   41   20   21   46
Newcastle United             24   12    6    6   46   27   19   42
Wimbledon                    22   11    5    6   35   27    8   38
Chelsea                      23   10    8    5   36   32    4   38
Aston Villa                  24   10    6    8   31   25    6   36
Sheffield Wednesday          23    8   10    5   26   27   -1   34
Tottenham Hotspur            23    9    4   10   26   31   -5   31
Leeds United                 24    8    5   11   21   27   -6   29
Sunderland                   24    7    8    9   23   31   -8   29
Everton                      24    7    7   10   32   38   -6   28
Leicester City               23    7    6   10   22   31   -9   27
Coventry City                24    6    8   10   23   33  -10   26
Derby County                 23    5   10    8   22   29   -7   25
Blackburn Rovers             23    5    9    9   24   24    0   24
Nottingham Forest            24    5    8   11   23   38  -15   23
West Ham United              23    5    7   11   19   30  -11   22
Southampton                  22    5    5   12   31   39   -8   20
Middlesbrough                23    5    6   12   29   43  -14   18*

* Includes 3 pts deducted from Middlesbrough for illegal match postponement 

This League Table Update provided by Lawrence "Leagueman" Breakey

This Match Report Compilation was prepared by Michael Kenrick for Marko Poutiainen. 15 Feb 1997.