Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Spurs add to woe at Newcastle United

Newcastle United 1 Tottenham 2

It gets no easier to sell Newcastle United, either as a going concern or as a place of potential employment. Terry Venables will have watched this half-baked Newcastle performance on television and perhaps hoped that yesterday's preliminary contact from the St James' Park hierarchy is not followed up today.

Unfortunately for Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, Venables witnessed Leeds United disintegrate from the inside in his nine months at Elland Road six years ago and, if this is not a replica situation, the parallels must be making Venables feel uncomfortable. A squad stripped to the bone over successive transfer windows, lop-sided and assembled by half-a-dozen managers at least, it can be only the purest form of optimism, or cash, that brings Venables north again. Or the challenge, of course.



Newcastle are a mess and even before September is out look a reasonable bet to be relegated from the Premier League for the first time. A fourth straight defeat was inflicted by the only team beneath them in the division.



Tottenham came as League Cup holders, but drained of confidence, and yet courtesy of Roman Pavlyuchenko's first goal for the club in the 62nd minute, and a follow-up from Jamie O'Hara shortly after, Juande Ramos's side eased themselves into Saturday's fourth round draw.



Michael Owen did score what is sometimes referred to as a consolation in the 90th minute, but no one in this vast deserted stadium was fooled by that. The attendance, 20,577, was Newcastle's smallest crowd for 16 years.



Both Spurs goals were rooted in slack Newcastle passing and caretaker Chris Hughton emerged slowly afterwards to say: "It probably sums up where we are. A run of defeats generally affects confidence."



Hughton said he saw "some positives" though he did not go into detail, but possibly his telling comment was that Tottenham "had a very good bench".



David Bentley, Luka Modric and Darren Bent were on it – £50m worth – while Newcastle's again featured teenagers such as Ben Tozer and Mark Doninger, lads who would not be recognised if they were sitting on the Gallowgate.



The pre-match feeling was that Spurs are a good team in a lull whereas Newcastle are a bad team. That was not confirmed by any of the action in a Spartan first half. In an atmosphere that smacked of a pre-season friendly the ball was won and lost with depressing frequency.



Tottenham's best effort then fell to Pavlyuchenko, but his free header from O'Hara's 32nd minute corner flew inches wide. Newcastle's card should have been marked by that, however.



Claudio Cacapa did worry Heurelho Gomes as the first half petered out – his headed flick skimming by – and Newcastle were bright at the beginning of the second half. But for Jonathan Woodgate's sliding goalline clearance Damien Duff would have given the hosts a 48th minute advantage.



When Owen then had a 59th minute effort closed down by Gomes, it seemed as if Newcastle were rediscovering some coherence. But it was a mirage. Three minutes later a series of poor midfield passes culminated in Nicky Butt tapping the ball to Pavlyuchenko.



The Russian immediately swivelled away and Spurs were engaged in a dangerous attack. O'Hara spread the ball wide to the left where Aaron Lennon had switched wings. Cutting in, Lennon floated in a tempting centre that Pavlyuchenko met six yards out. Sadly for Shay Given, no Newcastle defender found the cross tempting. Pavlyuchenko had his first goal in England.



Less than four minutes later and yet more slack Newcastle passing gifted Spurs their second. Fabricio Coloccini, a £9.1m signing, by Dennis Wise apparently, had failed to get close to Pavlyuchenko and now he played the ball across the back four.



Steven Taylor was the target but Taylor was either complacent or asleep and O'Hara simply nipped in and took the ball. Bearing down on Given, O'Hara then planted the ball beyond the Irishman.



Owen did restore hope briefly with an assured 90th minute finish, but the three minutes of added time could bring no equaliser. Tottenham Hotspur should have bottomed out; Newcastle are still tumbling.



Newcastle United (4-4-2) Given; Geremi, Taylor, Coloccini, Bassong; Duff (Xisco, 72), Butt, Cacapa (Edgar, 72), N'Zogbia; Owen, Martins. Substitutes not used: Harper, Doninger, Donaldson, Ameobi.



Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-4-1) Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King, Assou-Ekotto; Zokora; Lennon (Campbell, 62), Jenas, O'Hara, Bale (Giovani, 53) Pavlyuchenko (Modric, 75). Substitutes not used: Sanchez, Gilberto, Bentley, Bent.



Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

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