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Sunday, January 25, 1998 Published at 19:44 GMT


Stevenage keep Cup dream alive
image: [ I'm back: Alan Shearer (centre) celebrates his early goal against Stevenage ]
I'm back: Alan Shearer (centre) celebrates his early goal against Stevenage

Stevenage Borough kept their FA Cup dream alive with a 1-1 draw against Newcastle United.

Striker Giuliano Grazioli cancelled out Alan Shearer's early goal just before half time, stunning the Toon Army into silence and sparking wild celebrations among the home supporters at the tiny ground.

The result was no more than Stevenage deserved. The part-timers, who cost a total of £16,000, more than matched the Geordie side valued at £60m.

[ image: Stevenage fans get in party mood]
Stevenage fans get in party mood
The crowd, happy to be witnessing a Premiership team at their ground undoubtedly lifted the home team.

Newcastle had questioned safety provisions seeking to switch the venue to St James's Park. This result means they will get their wish in the replay on February 4.

Newcastle had seemed set for an easy win when Shearer scored within three minutes, heading in from a pinpoint Keith Gillespie cross after a mistake by Stevenage.

It should have broken the hearts of the Vauxhall Conference side, but instead acted to spur them on. Stevenage deserved their goal after a wonderfully battling first half performance.

Newcastle had several close escapes; Grazioli, who scored the winner in the Vauxhall Conference side's 2-1 third round victory against Swindon, had a goal over-ruled by an offside decision and Newcastle goalkeeper Shaka Hislop pulled off stunning saves to deny Gary Crawshaw and Neil Trebble.

However Stevenage were not to be denied. They forced several corners before Grazioli stole into the smallest of spaces to nod home a close range effort from Gary Crawshaw's corner.

Newcastle began to press forward with more purpose in the second half with a biting cold wind at their backs. Stevenage goalkeeper Des Gallagher struggled to reach the halfway line with his goal kicks and the pressure mounted.

But Stevenage did not panic, playing with a poise and composure which belied their lowly status. Gallagher saved a close range shot from John Barnes, and Shearer missed two good chances, volleying against the body of Mark Smith and then sending a venomous left foot shot over the bar.

After the match Stevenage boss said: "I'm extremely proud. It was a great performance by the players. We were unfortunate not to win the game, particularly after the first half display.

"Tiredness set in the second half but it was a commendable performance. I won't complain about going to Newcastle. That was the plan!"

He said he was glad Shearer played because it meant Newcastle could not use his absence as an excuse.

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