MATCH REPORTS

Newcastle United 1 Stoke City 2

Kevin Nolan

By Dan King

It was funky chicken time at 4.53pm, but by 6pm, Newcastle United had egg on their faces.

Despite going a goal ahead on the stroke of half-time through a Kevin Nolan penalty, who celebrated with the afforementioned dance, a second-half revival resulted in Stoke claiming all three points courtesy of James Perch's unfortunate own-goal.

The right-back sent a diving header past Tim Krul with five minutes left to play to consign United to their second successive home defeat and take some of the shine off the superb wins against Everton and Chelsea.

In the first-half, Newcastle were by far the better team and played some great football, with Stoke never really getting in their faces in the way they're so renowned. But after the break, The Potters took a more direct approach and managed to turn the game on its head.

Stoke were missing Jermaine Pennant, and somewhat surprisingly named Rory Delap on the bench, while Newcastle made only the one enforced change to their last Barclays Premier League outing - Tim Krul coming in for the injured Steve Harper.

City's goalkeeper was former Sunderland man Thomas Sorensen, and he made a nervous start in from of the Leazes End with a string of poor kicks which invited pressure on his side.

Newcastle, by contrast, looked full of confidence and controlled the opening exchanges, fashioning the first opportunity of the game when Jose Enrique crossed and Andy Carroll met it, but couldn't get the desired direction on his header.

Then Hatem Ben Arfa, who made a lively start, hit a free-kick just wide after a storming run from the back by Mike Williamson had been ended unfairly.

Enrique then fizzed in a cross from the left which just evaded Carroll and Perch in the box, while Stoke could only muster a low shot from Kenwyne Jones which was well off target.

With Cheik Tiote once again excelling and Ben Arfa looking lively, all Newcastle needed was a goal to show for their efforts - and it duly arrived on 43 minutes when another teasing cross from Enrique gave Robert Huth no option but to obstruct Andy Carroll as he went for it, and referee Mike Jones pointed to the spot. Kevin Nolan took it and while Sorensen went to his right, the ball went down the middle.

Tony Pulis changed things around four minutes after the restart, bringing off defensive midfielder Salif Diao for a forward in Ricardo Fuller, and soon afterwards brought on long-throw expert Delap. And as much as Stoke clearly have more to their team than the propellor-like throws of the former Carlisle man, the option of hurling balls into the box slowly saw the tide turn in this match.

On 53 minutes, Matt Etherington's corner was headed wide by Ryan Shawcross, then Trinidadian striker Jones saw a header come back off the post before Fuller scuffed the rebound wide from close range.

Jonas Gutierrez replaced Ben Arfa, who had seen far less of the ball in the second half, but still Stoke came and Jones saw another header crash off the angle of post and bar.

But then Fuller was felled outside the box, on United's left, and had to be helped off clutching his arm with what looked like a long-term injury. Eidur Gudjohnsen came on - and no sooner had he entered the pitch than Stoke were on level terms. Etherington's delivery was inviting for Huth to head back across goal and Jones rose above everybody to head home.

The Magpies almost had an instant response. Gutierrez crossed, Carroll met it acrobatically and Sorensen saved but didn't hold. However, he gathere it just before the onrushing Nolan could get there to force home.

Clearly seeing this as a game his team could win, Chris Hughton replaced the excellent but defensive-minded Tiote with a striker, Shola Ameobi, in the hope that the striker could repeat his heroics of Wednesday night at Chelsea.

And United certainly looked more likely to score as a result - with James Perch the main danger. First, the full-back saw the ball deflect high off him towards a backpedalling Sorensen, who managed to hold on this time, then he galloped onto Gutierrez's pass and let fly from range, but again the goalkeeper saved.

But having came so close to scoring at one end, the unlucky right-back did find the net at the wrong end. As Stoke forced a string of throw-ins, Mike Williamson headed one behind for a corner and the resulting flag-kick was put past Krul by a devastated Perch.

Despite six minutes of stoppage time, United could not force a second goal and for the second time in two weeks, they were beaten at St. James' Park.

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