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19:13 15th August 2009

Report: Ameobi hat-trick beats Royals

Newcastle 3 (Ameobi 38, 66, 75 (pen))
Reading 0

A hat-trick from Shola Ameobi gave Newcastle all three points at St James' Park and inflicted a first defeat on our new manager Brendan Rodgers.

United were the better side and deserved to win, but for long periods the game was tighter than the scoreline suggests.

The first half in particular was nip-and-tuck and we had a couple of decent chances, while United were very lucky just before the goal to see Shane Long pulled back for a debatable foul as he raced down the right and prepared to set up a golden chance.

In addition, home skipper Alan Smith could well have been sent off after two late challenges in the space of a minute, getting away with the second one on 18 minutes as the referee showed him some lenience.

Then United went in front just before the break, Ameobi's miscued header bouncing down and over Adam Federici after he lost his marker.

The game ran away from us after the break, Ameobi scoring with a good header after excellent work by Kevin Nolan down the right.

Sub Hal Robson-Kanu then had a good chance to put us back in it but skewed wide, and Ameobi rounded off his hat-trick from the spot after a debatable handball decision against Long.

United were ultimately the better side and deserved to win, but if one or two key moments had gone our way then it could have been different and the 1,00 or so loyal Royals who made the journey would then have been rewarded with a positive result.

Newcastle (4-4-2): Harper; R Taylor, Enrique, Coloccini, S Taylor; Nolan, Smith (c) (Geremi 78), Barton (LuaLua 83), Gutierrez; Carroll, Ameobi (Xisco 77)
Subs: Krul, Kadar, Ranger, Donaldson
Booked: Smith (foul 18), Carroll (foul 46), Barton (foul 67)

Reading (4-3-3): Federici; Rosenior, Bertrand, Cisse, Pearce (c); Karacan, Davies, Tabb (Harper 66); Church (Robson-Kanu 54), Kebe (Hunt 66), Long
Subs: Hamer, Mills, Gunnarsson, Sigurdsson

Ref: A Taylor

Attendance: 36,944

First half
The game was preceded by a minute's applause for the late Sir Bobby Robson, and the emotion of the occasion gave the home side an initial burst of energy, Ryan Taylor dragging a shot wide from the edge of the box.

But the Royals were by no means overawed, and a good turn and pass from Shane Long almost put Jimmy Kebe in. Then Alex Pearce had half a chance with a header from a corner, and Long dragged wide from a good position in space on the edge of the box.

In the twelfth minute a superb Kevin Nolan pass put Jonas Gutierrez in down the left hand side, and he was clear in on goal. He looked certain to unleash a shot, but dawdled somewhat and allowed Jem Karacan to just about put him off. The winger still stabbed across goal, and Joey Barton looked in a good position to score, but teammate Andy Carroll took it off his toe. It was a let-off for the Royals because there were two good chances in the space of five seconds but neither resulted in so much as a shot.

Soon afterwards United skipper Alan Smith was perhaps fortunate not to be shown two yellow cards in the space of a minute, narrowly avoiding an early bath. He was first booked for a late challenge on Simon Church on halfway, and then got away with another late one on Karacan that in fairness was probably not quite as clear cut.

It continued to be an open game, with the feeling that a goal could come at either end. A cracking ball from Scott Davies put Long in down the right on 25, and the Irishman's sidefoot cross was just ahead of Jay Tabb as he burst into the area at speed.

Down the other end Kalifa Cisse had a fair few tests at centre half, but he more than stood up to the challenge of Carroll and Shola Ameobi.

In fact there were good battles all over the pitch, and Long was giving Fabricio Coloccini a lot to think about with his movement and strength. The big Argentine was very fortunate on 35 minutes when our frontman got the better of him and was in a great position down the right, only to be pulled back for a very soft infringement.

A minute later Adam Federici had to make a top class save to keep out Gutierrez's deflected strike, but there was nothing he could do about the goal that followed moments afterwards. Jose Enrique got in a cross from deep on the left, and Ameobi peeled off his man to head home. There was perhaps a slice of fortune in that he uninintentionally headed it straight downwards, the bounce taking it up over our 'keeper's hand.

We almost had an instant reply from a very similar situation, but Ryan Bertrand's superb cross was inches away from Davies and Long. Just before the break Bertrand again did well down the left, but United were given a let-off by another debatable foul in thei,r favour.

Reading had certainly held their own, but went in at the break a goal behind.

Second half
The Royals won a couple of corners early in the half, but the first real chance fell to United. Ameobi timed his run well to beat the offside trap, and he advanced well but curled an effort a yard wide. Then we were forced into a change, Hal Robson-Kanu on for Church.

United were keeping the ball far more easily than Reading would have liked, and as the clock ticked past the hour mark that pressure turned into a goal. Nolan showed great desire to keep in a loose ball, and it was worked to Ryan Taylor, his excellent cross resulting in another headed goal for Ameobi. Rodgers responded with a double change, James Harper and Noel Hunt on in place of Tabb and Kebe.

Ameobi was then very close to a hat-trick, but another superb Federici save kept him at bay, this time a one-handed stop pushing over his header from a corner.

Immediately Robson-Kanu had a cracking chance, and as it whistled wide you felt that any hope of a result went with it. Harper and Long had done well to force Nolan to give the ball away, and Robson-Kanu skipped past his man with ease. He had a good sight of goal from 15 yards out, but skewed it wide, much to the disappointment of the 1,000 or so Royals fans up in the gods behind that goal.

Federici remained busy for the Royals, and he saved well from Nolan at the near post, having seen the midfielder's cross flash across him moments earlier.

On 74 Ameobi did have his hat-trick, slotting home a penalty after Long was penalised for handball. It possibly looked a harsh call as there appeared little intent, but there was never any doubt which way the decision would go once hands went up.

With ten minutes left Hunt was very close to a consolation, shooting across goal but a foot or two wide of the far post. Bertrand tried a speculative effort from 40 yards and almost caught Steve Harper out, but to all intents it was game over, even though Long soon hit the side netting.

The game fizzled out in the end, and United looked comfortable in those final stages, but with one or two moments in our favour it could have been different.

    Data provided by Press Association