Facing a "must win" situation, Newcastle played Portsmouth to a disappointing nil draw at St James’ Park on Monday evening.
Whilst the result is a painful one to consider, let no-one say Alan Shearer didn't go out with both guns blazing. Never to back down number 9 chose the attacking trident of Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Mark Viduka with the single purpose of scoring. Though the Magpies may have been shy of the needed supporting talent, they made up for a great deal with tactical mindset and should have come out with the three points. Unfortunately "should" means very little and the biggest surprise of the day came from Michael Owen and Oba Martins missing quality chances that I dare say, if only number 9 still had his boots it would have been so very, very different. Sadly the legend can grace the grounds and Gazza can't resist returning but the final touch just isn't there with the present day crew and when the chips are down, they didn't respond. I will leave it at that because I deplore those who can't close and this was the worst example of let opportunities fly by.
Newcastle had its chances and in many ways, more than its fair share as Mike Riley turned a blind-eye to what many considered an obvious penalty call but still couldn't turn the screw. How this match will be remembered is likely to be determined in the final four weeks of the campaign. Should Newcastle tumble to the lower division, many will recall how Michael Owen forgot his shooting boots three minutes past the hour when played in by Mark Viduka or how Oba Martin sent a bar well into the stands from point-blank range, in what could have been a turning point in the great escape. Sadly as the match waned on the hearty Newcastle supporters who sang with pride earlier were forced to watch a toothless assault, venom so drained that Gazza could not watch.
Now the Magpies must rally and find strength in the past and summon a siege mentality lest that succumb the drop that as Leeds and Charleton can state, can be a terrifying slide. Sunday they venture to Anfield and while maybe just a foolish hazy dream, the magic of number 9 will see Newcastle through.