Newcastle's tale of Woan


EVEN though he has said it only twice Kenny Dalglish is probably already fed up using the phrase "wonder goal" to describe a decisive shot from a member of the opposition. But he was at it again yesterday and once again the effort merited the description, Ian Woan's 80th minute winning volley equalling the quality of Matthew Le Tissier's majestic strike at The Dell.

The latter denied Newcastle United a League win and now Woan's has knocked them out of the FA Cup.

When Les Ferdinand leapt to nod Newcastle ahead on the hour Sir John Hall must have jingled the coins in his pocket but after Woan's deflected equaliser and then winner his hand will have turned into a fist. His exchange with his new managers after the game would have been worth hearing.

If Dalglish is worried he is not showing it and, surprisingly, felt his players lacked good fortune yesterday but little else. "Every successful team always needs a slice of luck, that wasn't there for us," he said. "Defensively, I thought we looked very sound."

It would be interesting to hear how many of the Toon Army agreed with the assessment as they grumbled their way out of the ground they certainly would not have been too happy with Warren Barton's contribution to Woan's second although Dalglish was perhaps dissuaded from attributing culpability by the sheer magnificence of the volley. "If there is any blame attached to anybody," he said, "it will be kept in the dressing room."

It was notable that Woan also mentioned the dressing room although he was talking about the effect Stuart Pearce has had on Nottingham Forest. "He has brought a bit of the `psycho' attitude into it," Woan said, searching for an explanation of why Forest have won five matches on the trot. Pearce himself had more tactical reasons "for the latest one here, mainly his packed defence that stifled the life out of the first hour.

In fact, the highlights of that appalling period were, in order of interest, as follows Dalglish's first programme notes (his two daughters start their new school in the north east today), the stunning lack of atmosphere (so quiet you could hear the players call each other names) and the football.

It says something that, until Ferdinand's goal, the best chance of the game had been created by Shaka Hislop. The Newcastle goalkeeper is still prone to the odd unconfident flap. It happened at Southampton and in the 26th minute, it happened again. Woan swung a long, arcing ball over the head of Barton and into Bryan Roy's path. Hislop made a rash rush from his area and Roy's lob cover the top sailed just wide.

With Newcastle struggling for cohesion the play was as flat as a lazy day afternoon there was no sign of the drama to come. A seven man, committed but generally calm Forest defence, was the chief cause and only flashes from David Ginola hinted that Dalglish's team had the nous to overcome the situation. Yet when the Frenchman wandered inside in search of the ball it meant that Newcastle, with Gillespie on the bench, were a side without wingers, and wits.

Barton did get forward along the right but usually hit Pearce's back with his crosses. However, with the game meandering along to the hour mark, Barton tried again and his diagonal centre from deep brought a reward. Ferdinand outjumped everyone and sent a simple header beyond Bryn Crossley.

There was now a hitherto unseen urgency to Forest's passing but even so only 13 minutes remained when Woan collected the ball 30 yards out and decided to have a lash.

It worked spectacularly well, hitting first Keith Gillespie (on for Ginola) and then Barton before bobbling its way past Hislop. Three minutes later, after another unfortunate intervention by Barton, Woan, did it again, driving sumptuously - from a narrowing angle, the ball crashing in off the under side of the bar. It was a wonder goal it made you wonder how it was only Woan's second of the day, it was his second of the season.