Newcastle Utd 1 Aston Villa 1
NEWCASTLE UTD: Given, Ramage, Boumsong, Bramble, Elliott, Solano (Bowyer 87), Faye, Parker, Shearer, Chopra (Luque 81), Ameobi.
Subs Not Used: Harper, Clark, Brittain.
ASTON VILLA: Sorensen, Hughes, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Bouma, Hendrie, McCann, Davis (Bakke 61), Barry, Angel (Moore 62), Baros.
Subs Not Used: Samuel, Taylor, De la Cruz.
In some respects Gareth Barry handed beleaguered Newcastle boss Graeme Souness a lifeline when he fired an 87th-minute penalty high over the crossbar. But minutes later Toon fans made their feelings felt outside the ground and sang exactly what they think about the manager. Put it this way ... 'Souness out!' does not need explaining.
Newcastle old boy Aaron Hughes said he wanted to return to Tyneside and do a 'Kevin Phillips', who went back to the Stadium Of Light with Villa and silenced the home crowd. However, it was former Sunderland midfielder Gavin McCann who did it for him, when levelled an Alan Shearer penalty on 75 minutes.
The point at least ended Newcastle's run of three successive defeats, but has it earned Souness a stay of execution? If he is going to be sacked, let's make it now and get it over with, so we can start our future at this minute rather than dragging the whole sorry situation into farce.
Was the performance and result acceptable? I don't think many Toon fans would say they were happy with it. I certainly wasn't. God forbid, this was the Villa side that were played off the field by Doncaster Rovers four days ago.
Scott Parker and Amady Faye sat tight in a three-man midfield and set the tone right from the start. Villa perhaps played the more fluent football, but United looked marginally the more dangerous in the final third of the pitch.
However, it was a slice of good fortune which finally earned them the breakthrough. Alan Wiley had no doubts when Parker's shot hit Liam Ridgewell after 32 minutes and immediately awarded a penalty, the fourth the defender had conceded in five matches. Shearer smashed his shot beyond the keeper's dive to open the scoring.
In the second half Alan Shearer chased down a long ball and managed to get himself goal-side of Ridgewell before firing in a dipping volley which had Sorensen beaten but clipped the crossbar.
Young striker Michael Chopra, making just his second Premiership start, passed up a good opportunity after 59 minutes when Shearer headed down Parker's deep cross, Olof Mellberg easing him off the ball to head clear.
Villa were always in the hunt and they drew level after 75 minutes when, after Hendrie had squared from the left, McCann held off Shola Ameobi to drill a low drive past Given from 20 yards.
But fortune smiled on Souness when, with just three minutes remaining, Bramble charged into Baros like a steam train, without the slightest notion of getting the ball ... but Villa squandered the penalty. Barry, who scored twice from the spot in the corresponding fixture last season, could not find the net this time around, much to the relief of all in black and white.