Newcastle sent closer to the drop
Newcastle United crashed closer to relegation as Darren Bent's goal condemned Alan Shearer's team to a 1-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur. The Magpies are now four points from safety, with just five matches to save themselves, after an unimpressive display at White Hart Lane.
When Newcastle owner Mike Ashley chose Shearer to replace convalescing manager Joe Kinnear until the end of the season, it was clearly a last throw of the dice to galvanise a club in disarray. But Newcastle legend Shearer has been unable to work wonders with an unbalanced and distinctly average squad. Only Tottenham's wayward finishing prevented Newcastle being thrashed out of sight.
As it is, Newcastle head back to St. James' Park without a win in seven matches. The previously unthinkable prospect of playing second tier football for the first time in 16 years is becoming more likely by the week.
Shearer opted to leave fit-again Australia striker Martk Viduka and Nigeria's Obafemi Martins on the bench, with Andy Carroll partnering Michael Owen up front. The Newcastle manager knew defeat would be disastrous and his team made a cautious start.
Tottenham made all the early running and Bent forced Newcastle keeper Steve Harper into action for the first time with a fierce shot from Luka Modric's astute pass. The same duo combined again as Tottenham mounted a flowing counter-attack to break the deadlock in the 24th minute.
Heurelho Gomes threw out quickly to Benoit Assou-Ekoto, who fed Croatia midfielder Modric. When he tried to pick out Keane with a pass from the centre circle, Sebastien Bassong's attempted block deflected to Bent. The Tottenham striker's first shot was too close to Harper, but he pounced on the rebound to shoot into the empty net for his second goal in 11 appearances.
Tottenham suffered a blow when Michael Dawson landed heavily and was carried off on a stretcher with his ankle strapped up. But Harry Redknapp's team remained on top. Modric's shot deflected off Bassong on the line for Harper to save before Bent headed over from Alan Hutton's superb cross to the far post.
Newcastle's cause was not helped by an injury that forced Taylor off at half-time, with Alan Smith on in his place. There was no sign of any improvement from Newcastle after the break and Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone twice went close with powerful long-range strikes. Shearer responsed by sending on Martins and Viduka to join Michael Owen in a three-man attack.
That was the signal for a desperate push forward from the visitors. Martins had the ball in the net with a slick finish, but referee Mark Halsey whistled for handball. Newcastle appealed in vain for a penalty when Martins tumbled under a Jonathan Woodgate challenge before Martins blasted over in the final moments.