English Premiership

Magpies, Pompey in stalemate

2009-04-28 07:11
Newcastle boss Alan Shearer (Gallo Images)
Newcastle - Newcastle's chances of clinging on to their place in the English Premiership suffered a serious setback as Alan Shearer's side were frustrated by a resilient Portsmouth.   

A goalless draw left the Magpies three points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Hull with just four matches left to stave off relegation and a daunting trip to face title-chasing Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

The point edges Portsmouth closer to securing their own top flight status with Paul Hart's side now seven points clear of the drop zone.

The stakes involved in a match that Shearer had described as both a must-win encounter and the most important of his players' careers, were reflected in the presence of all three of the club's leading strikers - Michael Owen, Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins - in the starting line-up.

That helped to ensure a buzzing atmosphere at the outset but the final whistle was to be greeted with a chorus of jeers from the home fans as Newcastle's big guns failed to produce the moment of quality required, with Owen squandering a glorious chance just after the hour mark.

Portsmouth had to weather some early pressure but once they began to hit their hosts on the counter-attack they started to look dangerous, although Newcastle came closest to breaking the deadlock before the interval when David James did well to turn a Damien Duff strike around the post. From the resulting corner, Viduka sent a looping header over the bar and the home side also had claims for a penalty for handball against Hermann Hreidarsson waved away after Alan Smith had blasted a shot against the Icelander's arm.

Five minutes into the second half, there was a real let-off for Newcastle when Peter Crouch went to ground in the box under a challenge from Fabricio Coloccini. That was a sign that Newcastle were starting to leave space at the back for Pompey to exploit but the home side should have taken the lead just after the hour mark when Viduka, despite having been wrestled to the ground, played Owen into a one-on-one situation with James.

The England goalkeeper came out on top in the duel with his international team-mate, saving with his legs, and that was to prove Newcastle's last real chance of claiming all three points.

It could have been worse for Shearer's men with Portsmouth also guilty of wasting opportunities to clinch victory. With 11 minutes left, Crouch fired straight at Steve Harper and, three minutes later, Scotland midfielder Richard Hughes headed against the foot of the post.

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