Toon Progress - Despite Boumsong
CHELTENHAM: Higgs, Gill, Caines, Townsend, Armstrong,Melligan (Vincent 86), Finnigan, Bird, Wilson,Guinan (Spencer 74), Odejayi.
Subs Not Used: Brown, Duff, Connolly.
NEWCASTLE UTD: Given, Ramage, Boumsong, Bramble, Babayaro,Solano (Emre 59), Parker (Luque 76), Clark, Ameobi, Shearer,Chopra (N'Zogbia 66).
Subs Not Used: Harper, Elliott.
Two goals just before half-time by Michael Chopra and Scott Parker has to some extent taken a bit of the pressure off Newcastle boss Graeme Souness as the Magpies edged past Cheltenham and into the fifth round of the FA Cup. But if this performance is anything to go by, it is just stalling the inevitable. Newcastle were quite simply the same disjointed mess they have been for weeks, and as Souness talked afterwards about spending Sunday with his family, some fans were wishing he would do it more often ... like seven days a week!
Chopra headed United ahead on 41 minutes and Parker, playing his first game since undergoing knee surgery earlier this month, opened his account two minutes later when he deflected Jerry Gill's cross past keeper Shane Higgs.
It was never plain sailing for the visitors at Whaddon Road, and for ninety minutes Kayode Odejayi made French international Jean-Alain Boumsong look like an amateur. United kept the minnows at bay, but no thanks to a defender who is even out of his depth at League Two level.
Newcastle have had their problems with lower league and non-league opposition over the years as Hereford, Chester and Stevenage Borough would testify. And for 41 minutes, those non-Geordies who craved a big shock were optimistic of getting one.
In particular Odejayi could, and should, have given Cheltenham a lifeline with a goal. French international Boumsong never looked like stopping the pacy Odejayi before the break, and he didn't improve in the second-half.
As expected, the home side were combative and enterprising, and it was fully 25 minutes before the Mags managed to force their way into the tie.
By that point, Odejayi had gone to ground in the box under Boumsong's clumsy fourth-minute challenge for what looked like a penalty, and livewire skipper John Finnigan headed over after the pacy striker had caused havoc down the right.
But as the initial storm abated, Alan Shearer, looking for a club record 201st goal, glanced a header straight at keeper Shane Higgs and defender Peter Ramage was aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty after apparently being tripped by Finnigan.
However, the breakthrough finally arrived four minutes before the break when Shearer caused problems inside the box to allow Celestine Babayaro to stab a shot towards the advancing Higgs, and when the ball looped up off the keeper, Chopra climbed highest in front of a static defence to head home.
It was 2-0 within two minutes as the Robins' luck deserted them when Gill attempted to clear Ramage's cross and succeeded only in blasting the ball against Parker and into the net.
The home side began the second half with another flurry, and Titus Bramble was left red-faced on 53 minutes when striker Steve Guinan turned him with embarrassing ease on the edge of the box and raced in on goal, where keeper Shay Given got a vital touch to deflect the ball wide.
Odejayi was claiming a penalty again after collapsing under Boumsong's robust 55th-minute challenge, although he was clearly fouling the defender as he did so, but Cheltenham were again making a concerted push.
Souness replaced Nolberto Solano with Emre withdrew Chopra in favour of midfielder Charles N'Zogbia to shut up shop and leave Shearer alone in attack. They managed to run down the clock with little difficulty to complete a satisfactory result.