Coventry Citys exploits on the banks of the
Tyne do not make pretty reading games - seven, goals against - 21, goals for - one,
points - nil.
There have been far worse nights at St James Park and Gordon Strachan was upbeat but
there is no escaping the fact that Coventry are now in deep trouble and face a fight to
the final day of the season once again.
Evertons win over Middlesbrough pushed City closer to the relegation zone and
with games against Manchester United and Aston Villa just around the corner, these are not
City played far better and showed more fight than they had at Everton in the FA Cup tie
on Saturday but gave away a position of strength and then collapsed in the second half to
allow Newcastle an easy victory.
Strachan made change after the cup defeat. Gary Breen was consigned to the reserves the
night before and was replaced by Mo Konjic, making his first start in the Premiership,
while Trond Soltvedt won back in place in midfield.
City started brightly and were a match for the home side during an entertaining first
half. Newcastle were clearly aware of Darren Huckerbys pace and their former team
mate managed to exploit gaps on several occasions.
Alan Shearer had one early shot saved by Magnus Hedman, while Gary Speed sent one
effort over the bar but Newcastle were by no means dominating.
And when City took the lead in the 18th minute it came via the sweetest
move. Huckerby held the ball up well shaking off a defender and then fed Whelan on the
edge of the area. It was a fierce pass to control but Whelan cushioned the ball with his
chest and rapped in a fine left-foot volley.
City were still celebrating their lead when, around 30 seconds later, Shearer fired
Newcastle back into the game. Louis Saha pushed a pass between Konjic and David Burrows
and once the England man had the goal in his sights there was little doubting the outcome.
There was little to choose between the two sides up until half time and once again
Coventry had just cause to feel hard done by at the hands of officialdom. Just two minutes
after the goal Huckerby darted in from the left touchline and managed to force his way
past French defender Laurent Charvet who appeared to pull the striker down.
Referee Steve Dunn, the man in charge in the controversial game at Wimbledon earlier
this season, did not see it that way.
Coventry had no reason to doubt their chances of going on to win the game but
Newcastle blew them away in four second half minutes.
Shearer turned creator in the 54th minute to set up Gary Speed who squeezed
his way past Konjic and Burrows before pushing the ball into the net as Hedman came racing
off his line.
Four minutes later it was all over when French teenager Louis Saha was able to climb
unchallenged at the near post to meet Solanos corner which he directed in with a
Coventry were dead and they knew it. Their confidence had drained and they were
suddenly being forced to watch Newcastle indulge in some exhibition football.
Shearer rounded off the night 15 minutes from time when he followed in a free kick from
Dietmar Hamann and pounced on a handling error by Magnus Hedman.
Strachan then decided to replace Huckerby with John Aloisi and the he clearly did not
want to leave the field. He and Strachan had words, long and loud, before the player took
his seat in the dug out.
An ugly end to another disappointing day.
Newcastle United: Given, Charvet, Howey, Dabizas, Domi, Solano, Speed (Barton, 85
mins), Hamman, Glass (Brady, 65 mins) Shearer, Saha (Ketsbaia, 77 mins). Subs: Hughes,
Coventry City: Hedman, Nilsson, Shaw, Breen, Burrows, Boateng, Soltvedt (Clement, 66
mins), Froggatt, Huckerby (Aloisi, 76 mins), Whelan. Subs: Edworthy, Telfer, Ogrizovic.
Everton Glass (foul);
Coventry Burrows (foul), Boateng (foul), Konjic (foul).
Referee: Steve Dunn (Bristol).
Coventry man of the match: Whelan admirable workrate.