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Page last updated at 20:57 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 21:57 UK

Newcastle 3-1 Middlesbrough

Newcastle players celebrate
Goalscorers Martins, Lovenkrands and Taylor celebrate

By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at St James' Park

Alan Shearer made a substitution with the Midas Touch as Newcastle United clinched the victory that could preserve their Premier League status and condemn Middlesbrough to life in the Championship.

Manager Shearer gambled when he replaced Michael Owen with Obafemi Martins 20 minutes from time with the scoreline locked at 1-1 - an outcome unsuitable to either side as they went in search of the victory required to keep their survival hopes alive.

Shearer savours crucial win

It was a ploy that paid off in spectacular style as Martins scored within seconds, turning on a loose ball inside the area to shoot low past Middlesbrough keeper Brad Jones and send St James' Park into ecstasy.

Middlesbrough's spirit was broken after a brave fight, and their fate in this match - and in all likelihood this season - was sealed when another Shearer substitute, Peter Lovenkrands, slammed home Newcastle's third from close range with four minutes remaining.

It marked a dramatic change in fortune for Shearer, who had failed to record a victory since taking temporary charge at St James' Park in a bid to rescue Newcastle from relegation.

Newcastle now also have the psychological advantage of moving out of the bottom three and plunging Phil Brown's Hull City into the relegation places as the season reaches its climax.

PHIL McNULTY BLOG
BBC Sport's Phil McNulty

It all started so promisingly for Middlesbrough as they took the lead inside three minutes courtesy of Habib Beye's own goal, but Newcastle were not to be denied and were swiftly on terms when Steven Taylor headed home powerfully from Danny Guthrie's corner.

Middlesbrough had chances, notably when Marvin Emnes shot wide in the first half but ultimately Newcastle, driven on by a partisan and passionate home crowd, had the final say thanks to greater firepower up front.

Shearer's impassive mask was broken by the importance of this occasion as he celebrated those two crucial goals in trademark fashion, then joined his players on the pitch to celebrate at the final whistle.

He will be grimly aware that victory here does not guarantee survival, but it does give Newcastle a huge push towards safety and a much-needed injection of confidence with a home game against in-form Fulham and a visit to Aston Villa rounding off a troubled campaign.

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate looked suitably dejected as he consoled his devastated players at the end, and he will once again regret a performance that carried plenty of promise but not enough punch.

The tension inside St James' Park was tangible - and Middlesbrough turned up the pressure by taking the lead in bizarre circumstances.

Tuncay
Tuncay gave Middlesbrough an early lead at St James' Park

Afonso Alves played in Tuncay inside the area, and even though his effort was blocked by Newcastle keeper Steve Harper, Beye unwittingly trundled the rebound agonisingly over the line.

It presented a huge test of resolve for a Newcastle side low on confidence after their recent struggles, but the strength of their response did them huge credit.

Mark Viduka, playing against his old club, volleyed against the outside of the post before Taylor drew Newcastle level with a thumping header as he met Guthrie's corner on the run.

Viduka's Newcastle career has been seriously interrupted by injuries, but he looked in the mood here and he provided an inviting cross for strike partner Owen, whose header was turned over the top by Middlesbrough keeper Jones.

Middlesbrough were creating chances of their own when they were able to bring some composure and order to their play, and the lively Emnes should have restored their advantage after 28 minutes.

Newcastle keeper Harper could not hold his initial effort, but Emnes could only steer the rebound off target when he looked certain to score.

Middlesbrough suffered a blow four minutes later when Alves appeared to land awkwardly, and he was stretchered off to be replaced by Marlon King.

Emnes had another chance as the interval approached following good work from Stewart Downing, but again he was unable to find the target.

Newcastle continued to press after the break and Viduka almost put them ahead within seconds of the rebound, back-heeling a cross from Beye just off target.

Team heartbroken - Southgate

It was clear from the approach of both sides that they were aware of the futility of a draw, and Newcastle keeper Harper was pressed into action again after 56 minutes to save superbly when Gary O'Neil drove in powerfully from the edge of the area.

And that need for a victory was emphasised again as both managers made more changes with 21 minutes left, Newcastle sending on Martins for the subdued Owen and Middlesbrough introducing Jeremie Aliadiere for Mohamed Shawky.

It was Newcastle's switch that had a stunning impact, Martins scoring a poacher's goal within two minutes of his arrival to spark wild celebrations inside St James' Park.

Aliadiere almost made a similar introduction as they went in search of an equaliser, only to head wide when unmarked seconds later.

And Emnes, lively but unable to round off all his encouraging approach play, was then inches away from getting on the end of a dangerous cross from Tuncay as tension mounted in the closing stages.

The air of desperation and anxiety was lifted after 86 minutes when Lovenkrands, on for Jonas Gutierrez, scored emphatically from Kevin Nolan's cross to seal Newcastle's win.

Newcastle's supporters celebrated as if safety had been assured - but Shearer will know that while this is a major victory, the ultimate objective is still some way from being achieved.


Newcastle: Harper, Beye, Steven Taylor, Bassong, Duff, Guthrie, Butt, Nolan, Gutierrez (Lovenkrands 65), Owen (Martins 70), Viduka (Carroll 87).
Subs Not Used: Krul, Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, LuaLua.

Booked: Butt, Duff, Nolan.

Goals: Steven Taylor 9, Martins 71, Lovenkrands 86.

Middlesbrough: Jones, Hoyte, Bates, Huth, Taylor (Adam Johnson 76), Downing, O'Neil, Shawky (Aliadiere 69), Sanli, Emnes, Alves (King 36).
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Arca, McMahon, Grounds.

Booked: Bates.

Goals: Beye 3 og.

Att: 51,252

Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Newcastle's Mark Viduka (7.66 on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.



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see also
Shearer cautious despite victory
11 May 09 |  Premier League
Boro suffer Alves injury setback
11 May 09 |  Middlesbrough
Monday football as it happened
11 May 09 |  Football
Monday's football photos
11 May 09 |  Football


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