Tue, Oct


Shaka Hislop came of age but Juninho might be ready to blow out the dying flames of his Premiership career.

Newcastle keeper Hislop saved one of his best displays for his 28th birthday but Juninho, 24 yesterday, trudged off in despair after a brave Boro performance went cruelly unrewarded.

And unless legal eagle George Carman can claw back the three deducted points, Bryan Robson's multi-million pound team look doomed to the drop.

And that would surely be the signal for the likes of Ravanelli and Juninho to jump ship.

Not that Boro, on this evidence, will give up the fight.

They were sunk by Ferdinand's early clincher and denied at least a share of the spoils by Hislop, the woodwork and referee Stephen Dunn.

Ravanelli thought he had equalised just after half time when he latched on to a loose ball and side-footed it past Hislop but Dunn gave a free kick to Newcastle, signalling that the Italian had impeded Albert.

TV replays showed nothing of the sort and furious Robson rapped: "I asked the referee why he had disallowed it and he said he saw an infringement.

"It was certainly one that I didn't see and I don't think anyone else in the stadium saw. Ravanelli never touched him - in fact, he moved away from him.

"But we never got a break during the whole match.

"We are getting the breaks in the Cup but not in the League."

Newcastle boss Kenny Dalglish predictably refused to become involved in the controversy. He said: "I honestly don't know what happened - I couldn't see from where I was. The referee might have been right or he might have been wrong."

But at least the Scot - who left Ginola, Beardsley and Asprilla on the bench - was honest enough to admit: "We were a little bit fortunate. But then again there will be games when we deserve three points but don't get them so maybe it is swings and roundabouts.

"But the lads showed a terrific amount of spirit and got their reward.

"I never knew the title race was closed - we can only carry on doing our thing and if others slip up it is a bonus."

The bonus yesterday was a rare clean sheet and Newcastle's first away win in over three months.

Dalglish added: "It was Shaka's birthday and Juninho's birthday and at least one of them will be happy tonight."

Dalglish has certainly put his stamp on this team - they were content to soak up endless pressure after Ferdinand's 18th goal of the season had given them the early advantage.

Ferdinand ran on to a pass from Lee and beat Roberts with a narrow angle shot of surgical precision.

From that point it was mainly one-way traffic towards the Newcastle goal, although Boro's only clear chance of the first half was wasted by Beck.

Boro launched a second-half siege but Hislop denied Beck and Ravanelli, while substitutes Blackmore and Pearson both saw efforts hit the woodwork.

Blackmore backheeled against the post and Pearson - making his comeback after a four-month lay-off - saw a late header cannon back off the crossbar.

Ravanelli sent a lob inches wide and Beck went even closer when his chip left Hislop stranded but was hooked off the line by Peacock.

It was cruel for Boro but at least bookies will be pleased with the outcome. They had taken bets at 500-1 that Shearer would score against every Premiership club this season.

His failure yesterday signalled the end of that quest and saved the layers a million but Ferdinand's goal might just have cost Boro a king's ransom.