Newcastle United's Mark Viduka reacts after missing a chance to score.
Photo by: EMPICS Sport/PA Photos
Newcastle drew 0-0 against Portsmouth as a first win continues to elude The Magpies’ boss Alan Shearer.
Michael Owen had previously said this game was an ‘acid test’ of their Premier League survival hopes and they were semi-scolded on this occasion, with the England striker spearheading a three-pronged attack which fluffed its lines.
All three were guilty of glaring misses to keep Newcastle second from bottom and the scenario could have been even worse if Richard Hughes’ header had not hit a post late on.
The pre-match entertainment included the self-proclaimed ‘Top Chanter’ giving his rendition of Blaydon Races to rouse the Geordie faithful as owner Mike Ashley looked down at a piece of paper which may have contained the words.
Newcastle made a frantic start with the outlet of the returning left-back Jose Enrique to rely upon but the approach play of the home side was edgy.
Portsmouth demonstrated they would be difficult to breakdown when Glen Johnson applied a sliding tackle to deprive Martins of the ball as he tried to turn into space behind The Pompey defense.
After the initial Newcastle surge, the visitors started to threaten with Johnson’s left-footed shot from a free-kick deflected just out of the reach of the lunging Peter Crouch.
The beanpole striker then failed to control a cross at the far post, delivered by Nadir Belhadj, with only a regulation touch required to set up a shooting opportunity.
The woe at St James’ Park deepened when Enrique pulled up clutching his hamstring and immediately it became obvious the injury-jinxed Spaniard would not be able to continue, which led to the introduction of Danny Guthrie.
The substitute made an instant impact when his drive was met by the boot of Viduka – lurking close to goal -but the striker sent his prod towards the far post where it was cleared.
Newcastle finally prompted David James into a save in the 37th-minute with Damien Duff cutting in from the left to shoot low, and the England goalkeeper was equal to the test.
The home team should have been celebrating a goal close to half-time, when Martins bothered Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin in the air and, when the ball dropped for the striker, he managed to blast it over the crossbar from the edge of the six-yard box.
Some lively interplay between Owen and Viduka roused the spectators following the interval with Owen back heeling the ball into the path of the Australian whose lunging shot went straight into the arms of James.
In the second half, referee Mike Riley appeared to make the correct call when he declined penalty appeals after Crouch tumbled to the deck following a sliding challenge from Fabricio Coloccini.
The Portsmouth goal then led a charmed life with James electing to add his ‘Calamity’ tag to a cross from Duff which he spilled but then reacted quickly to dive forward and deprive Viduka.
Shortly afterwards, The Aussie scrambled the ball through to Owen who faced an open path towards goal but managed to shoot straight at the goalkeeper’s legs to once again spurn a fine chance for Newcastle to make the breakthrough.
Portsmouth remained dangerous at the other end with Nadir Belhadj letting fly from 18 yards which prompted Steve Harper to tip the ball over the crossbar and Crouch should of then done better with a shot on the counter-attack which grubbed into the arms of Harper.
Shearer made changes to give his side greater mobility with Jonas Gutierrez replacing the dependable Nicky Butt while Andy Carroll replaced Viduka.
These changes failed to lift Newcastle who were defending vigorously in the final stages with Hughes rising to send a looping header against the near post from substitute Jermaine Pennant’s corner.
Another winless game for the home side was greeted by muted applause and some boos at the final whistle, as Portsmouth move seven points clear of the drop zone.