Newcastle miss chance to ease Allardyce's burden
( AFP ) - Newcastle United manager Sam Allardyce is under increasing pressure after Championship promotion hopefuls Stoke City held the Premier League strugglers to a goalless draw in Sunday's FA Cup third round tie here at the Britannia Stadium.
On this evidence the Potteries club can approach a January 16 St James' Park replay full of confidence with the Toon Army surely viewing the visit of Tony Pulis's physical side with some trepidation.
For Stoke this was a rare opportunity to take a Premier League scalp in front of a national television audience of millions and for Newcastle this was the fixture which could make or break a hitherto disastrous season.
Yet it is a measure of just how far these former giants of English football have fallen that this game was billed as the Matthews and Milburn Magic of the FA Cup event.
Stoke great Sir Stanley Matthews and Newcastle legend Jackie Milburn were at their mesmeric best in the 1950s and neither club has since enjoyed success in any major domestic competition.
The sight of Michael Owen making his first FA Cup start for Newcastle will, at the very least, have warned the hearts of the 6,000 Magpies' supporters but another poor performance followed.
After 25 minutes Australia international Mark Viduka freed his strike partner with a fantastic 40-yard pass but Owen's poor lob was easily collected by Stoke's Sunderland-supporting goalkeeper, Steve Simonsen.
Moments later United's Senegalese defender, Abdoulaye Faye, denied City's in-form Ricardo Fuller with a well-timed tackle as the Jamaican forward burst into Shay Given's penalty area.
But Newcastle were creating the better chances with France Under-21 international Charles N'Zogbia at the heart of the visitors' attacking moves.
Former England midfielder Nicky Butt, booked towards the end of the first half, then found the space to drill a 20-yard drive over Simonsen's crossbar.
The right hand post came to Stoke's rescue in the 56th minute, Steven Taylor heading against the upright - Duff collected the loose ball and with Simonsen stranded his cross narrowly missed the lurking Owen.
Stoke were still creating chances and England Under-21 international Taylor bravely blocked Richard Cresswell's on-target volley.
But Stoke's Mali striker Mamady Sidibe's evening ended on a disappointing note when he was replaced by Jon Parkin 24 minutes from time.
The City substitute's first touch was a shot from six yards cleared off the line by Taylor and Faye and moments later Given pulled off an astonishing reflex save to deny Cresswell.
Stoke finished the stronger but Newcastle substitute Andy Carroll almost clinched a late win only to see his right foot shot strike the post from the impressive N'Zogbia's cross.