Premier League - Super Stoke smash terrible Toon
Stoke City moved five points clear of the Premier League relegation zone with a 4-0 win at home to a poor Newcastle side, completing their first league double over the Magpies in 40 years.
Jonathan Walters opened the scoring with a lovely flicked header on 29 minutes but Toon were very much still in it going into half time.
Their hopes were dashed by a shocking display in the first three minutes after the break, a brief spell that saw them self destruct as an error from keeper Steve Harper allowed Jermaine Pennant to extend the lead while a terrible attempt at a wall let Danny Higginbotham’s free-kick straight through soon afterwards.
Substitute Ricardo Fuller completed the thrashing with a cool finish deep into injury time after a superb flick on by man-of-the-match Walters.
The victory sees Stoke leapfrog Newcastle into 10th on 37 points.
A scrappy opening yielded some chances as Harper almost gifted Kenwyne Jones an opener with a mis-hit clearance while Marc Wilson headed a Pennant corner over. At the other end Kevin Nolan found the angle too tight and the six-yard box too congested as he blasted over from close range.
There was little quality on display until Stoke took the lead, Walters nodding past Harper at the near post after an excellent cross from Pennant capped off a flowing move.
It was an outstanding goal and one that sparked Toon into life. Peter Lovenkrands was agonisingly close to heading in Shola Ameobi’s cross, while Higginbotham pulled off two vital clearances in two minutes - the first from Amoebi’s goal-bound curler and the second when Nolan drilled a low cross-shot past Asmir Begovic.
Just before the break the visitors had a great double opportunity when Ameobi was crowded out by Wilson and Ryan Shawcross as he prepared to head home, while Begovic denied first-half substitute Shane Ferguson with a flying save as he volleyed the loose ball towards goal.
But when Newcastle should have been coming out all-guns-blazing in the second half, they were abject as they gifted Stoke two goals in quick succession.
Seconds in, Harper underhit a clearance straight to Jones, whose surprise at receiving the ball prevented him from finishing: instead he fed Matthew Etherington, whose cross took a touch off the head of Sol Campbell before being prodded over the line by Pennant.
Almost from the restart they had another opportunity presented to them when a clumsy tackle from Cheik Tiote gave them a free-kick on the edge of the D. Higginbotham’s shot was powerful and true but it was straight at the wall, which parted all too easily to allow the shot to fly past a wrong-footed Harper.
It was schoolboy defending and all-but ended Toon’s hopes of a comeback, although in a decent half-hour spell they pressed gamely for some form of consolation: they were denied by Begovic though, whose superb save denied Joey Barton a trademark free-kick, while Ferguson did everything but finish when he fired straight at the Bosnia keeper following a mazy dribble from the left, and Nile Ranger failed to finish from close range after a free-kick routine involving Barton and Tiote.
In the end Stoke got a fourth on the break, Walters’s clever header releasing Fuller who raced clear of the defence and smacked home a low finish.
It was Stoke’s biggest win of the season while Newcastle continue their Jekyll and Hyde campaign.