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Wednesday, February 4, 1998 Published at 05:55 GMT

Sport: Football

Stevenage goal hero doubtful for Newcastle rematch
image: [ Alan Shearer marks his return with a header in the first game against Stevenage ]
Alan Shearer marks his return with a header in the first game against Stevenage

The Stevenage striker, said to have cost just three Mars bars and a packet of crisps, is unlikely to play in the FA Cup fourth round replay with Newcastle United on Wednesday.

Giuliano Grazioli scored the non-leaguers' equaliser at Broadhall Way 10 days ago to set up another money-spinning encounter with the Premiership big boys.

But he suffered a severe blow to his shin during Stevenage's FA Trophy match at Gateshead last Saturday. Despite round-the-clock treatment to reduce the swelling, he is rated "extremely doubtful".

The replay at St James' Park is a massive game for the Hertfordshire club - and the latest confrontation in a bitter battle between the two sides, both on and off the pitch.

5 Live's Doug Morris finds an optimistic Stevenage manager Paul Fairclough (1'-50")
But manager Paul Fairclough is not prepared to gamble on the long-term fitness of his most important players.

"We have more important games than this coming up as we're in the last 16 of the FA Trophy, which is our realistic chance of reaching Wembley this season, and we need to pick up more Vauxhall Conference points," said Fairclough.

Grazioli hit the headlines after his header in the first game against Newcastle cancelled out the early strike from his more illustrious counterpart, England superstar, Alan Shearer.

[ image: Stevenage fans in party mood]
Stevenage fans in party mood
Now he is praying he will be fit. "I can't even think about the possibility of missing a match like this. I'd be heartbroken, so I'll have intensive treatment right up to kick-off.

"The only thing that could beat the feeling of equalising against Newcastle would be scoring the winner in the replay."

Newcastle will be looking to their charismatic number nine to take them into the fifth round and a home tie against First Division Tranmere.

Shearer has another reason to put on a good performance - Britain's most expensive player is back in the England squad after a long injury lay-off.

He needs to convince coach Glenn Hoddle he is ready to lead the line against Chile in the next Wednesday's Wembley friendly.

Meanwhile, Newcastle are boosted by the return of the former England midfielder John Barnes who has recovered from a hamstring injury.

Also on Wednesday, Spurs take on Barnsley at Oakwell in a fourth-round replay.

Fifth round clearer after replays

The fifth round of the FA Cup is a little clearer after Tuesday night's replays. Third division Cardiff were knocked out but Reading needed extra time and penalties to overcome them.

Reading now meet Sheffield United who beat Ipswich 1-0. Wolves play Wimbledon after their 3-0 victory over Charlton Athletic.


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