Newcastle celebrate with Kevin Nolan classic against Sheffield United



Posted Tuesday, April 06, 2010 by theguardian.com

Newcastle celebrate with Kevin Nolan classic against Sheffield United

Newcastle United 2  
Sheffield United 1

Easter bonnets off to Chris Hughton and his players. A full month before the end of a season all about diligent determination and assiduous application Newcastle United are back in the big time.

As things turned out their elevation was confirmed before kick-off but goals from Peter Lovenkrands and Kevin Nolan applied the gloss to a richly deserved promotion, not to mention nudging Hughton's team another step closer to the Championship title.

Easter is the celebration of resurrection so it seemed somehow appropriate that 316 days after being relegated at Aston Villa on the final day of last season Newcastle's return to the Premier League was rubber-stamped early this evening.

As Nottingham Forest's failure to defeat Cardiff City dictated their faint automatic promotion dream faded and died, the spotlight switched to Tyneside and a night game destined to double as a Geordie promotion party in front of a crowd of 48,270. The big shame was that the late Sir Bobby Robson was not around to be part of it.

This time last year a gravely ill Robson watched from the stands as Alan Shearer patrolled the technical area, Newcastle's temporary manager inadvertently amusing the press box situated just behind him by loudly cursing Jonas Gutiérrez's failure to dispatch a single accurate cross.

Twelve months on and Hughton was calmly encouraging Gutiérrez, now a reborn winger seemingly bound for the World Cup with Argentina, to run at Nyron Nosworthy, the Sheffield United right-back borrowed from Sunderland.

Nosworthy was drafted to aid a South Yorkshire promotion push but, instead United are struggling to stay in play-off contention and their manager, Kevin Blackwell, is deemed 'under pressure'.

He and his assistant, Gary Speed – once such a key component of Robson's midfield here – enjoyed a welcome, if temporary reprieve, when Richard Cresswell headed United into an unscripted 22nd- minute lead.

Like Gutiérrez, Fabricio Coloccini is expected to play some part for Diego Maradona's side in South Africa this summer but he was comprehensively out-jumped by Cresswell to James Harper's corner.

Stripped of the adrenaline engendered by the need to win, Hughton's players initially lacked their customary edge and struggled to muster any sort of feisty tempo. Although Wayne Routledge blazed an early shot over the bar and another wide of a post, Steve Simonsen enjoyed a quiet opening in the visiting goal. Similarly the crowd was, at times, very slightly flat. It was as if, having seen Newcastle achieve promotion with six games to spare, they were struggling to replicate the atmosphere usually generated by their surfeit of nervous tension. Indeed as a chill breeze whipped round the ground some fans may even have been counting down the minutes until they could enjoy a celebratory pint in the adjacent Shearer's bar.

Andy Carroll, still wearing black gloves to disguise the hands he injured in the alleged altercation which left Steven Taylor with a broken jaw, remains a cult hero with many 'Shearer's' patrons and they groaned when he sent a header wide.

Interviewed in the match programme, Peter Lovenkrands revealed he hopes Newcastle will sign Lionel Messi from Barcelona to play alongside him this summer. That may not quite happen but Lovenkrands is capable of ruffling decent Premier League defenders and a swipe of his elegant left foot drew Newcastle level shortly before half-time.

That equaliser arrived from the penalty spot, the kick being awarded for Chris Morgan's foul on Carroll. Outraged, Speed kicked up quite a technical area storm and was duly banished to the stands after being 'sent off' by the referee, Andy Hall.

Perhaps inspired by running out for the second half to their anthem, The Blaydon Races, Newcastle surged forward as St James' upped the decibel level. Encouraged by not just his penalty but an earlier volley brilliantly repelled by Simonsen, Lovenkrands continued to unnerve Morgan and company.

Belatedly, there were choruses of "only one Chris Hughton" and his stalwart assistant Colin Calderwood – whose role this season should not be underestimated – gently encouraged Newcastle's manager to clap his acknowledgement.

All the while Mike Ashley, the owner Newcastle fans have not exactly forgiven for past misdemeanours but stopped railing quite so vehemently against, sat slumped in a padded seat. Ashley very nearly had reason to wave it when a Gutiérrez shot cannoned off a post but Nolan sealed victory courtesy of a spectacular scissor kick.

Cue Geordie rapture – along with a rare smile from Newcastle's owner.

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