Newcastle United 0 Blackburn Rovers 1

Last updated : 28 December 2003 By Footymad Previewer

Lethargic and lacklustre Newcastle slumped to their first Premiership home defeat since the end of August and could have few complaints against a superior Blackburn.

Paul Gallagher's scrambled 72 minute goal ended up in the net off his left arm and the perfectly positioned referee Mark Halsey deemed it was not an intentional use of the arm by the 19-year-old and allowed the goal to stand.

Blackburn boss Graeme Souness believes his side were fortunate to be credited with the goal, saying: "We were lucky, but we've had no luck all season, nor any penalties." Newcastle operated a former Gosforth High School attack with Michael Chopra handed his first Premiership start alongside Alan Shearer.

Chopra's inclusion - at the expense of Lomanu LuaLua was the only change to the side that grabbed that last gasp point at the Walkers Stadium.

And the young striker had the ball in the net on the stroke of half-time only to have his dreams shattered by an offside flag.

But in fairness, Newcastle ultimately got what they deserved as they slumped to only their second defeat in their last 13 starts to end the year on a miserable note.

From the start there was an air of confidence from Blackburn as they pulled the strings in midfield while up front United old boy Andy Cole and the emerging Gallagher looked sharp and full of running.

Newcastle never got going, were far too often second to the ball, their passing was wayward and they lacked their usual creativity.

There was an early warning when Gallagher lifted a Lucas Neill cross from the right onto the roof of the net.

Jermaine Jenas linked well with Nobby Solano and Shearer only to see his drive turned behind by Brad Friedel who came to the rescue again on 22 minutes to turn a Shearer header behind.

In between Barry Ferguson flashed a free-kick wide and Cole got clear only to fire at Shay Given.

A 50-50 challenge between Gary Speed and Ferguson left the Scottish international writhing in agony after 27 minutes and stretchered from the field.

It later emerged the former Rangers player had broken his left knee, and Souness added: "He's out for the rest of the season and is currently in hospital." Laurent Robert drove a free-kick straight at the ever-sure Friedel and the Speed drove well over just before the break.

Cole was denied by Given before Blackburn's winner after 72 minutes. A scramble saw the ball eventually go wide to the right where former United target Brett Emerton crossed for Gallagher who sent both the ball and Aaron Hughes into the net.

It could easily have been 2-0 just three minutes later following a Titus Bramble header, as Cole nipped in to meet his header in front of Given.

His effort looped towards goal only for Andy O'Brien to pull off a miraculous goal-line clearance.