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Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Owen on mark as Toon beat Hartlepool

Michael Owen scored his first Newcastle goal in 19 months as Sam Allardyce's reign began with a victory at Hartlepool.

The England hitman, who last found the net for his club at West Ham on December 17, 2005, converted James Troisi's 58th-minute cross after Shola Ameobi - who later claimed a second - had cancelled out James Brown's opener in a whirlwind start to the second half.

Owen's strike and a combative debut from Joey Barton were the most significant features of a highly-competitive encounter watched by a crowd of 6,030 at Victoria Park.

Allardyce, however, may have to explain the concept of a 'friendly' game to Barton, who snapped into tackles and harried opponents as if his life depended on it in a thoroughly entertaining firsthalf during which Hartlepool were often at full-stretch, but rarely undone.

The 5.8million signing's central midfield partnership with Nicky Butt provided a fulcrum for their side, and with Obafemi Martins and Kieron Dyer buzzing around teenage target man Andy Carroll, only the efforts of debutants Arran Lee-Barratt and Godwin Antwi kept the Barclays Premier League side at bay.

Former Coventry keeper Lee-Barrett produced a fine double save to deny Carroll and then Barton on 38 minutes after earlier denying Martins one-on-one.

Magpies new boy David Rozehnal turned in a solid 45 minutes at the back, but the fireworks were to come in the second half.

Owen entered the fray, along with Ameobi, at the break as both managers made changes, and he needed just seconds to test replacement keeper Jan Budtz, who managed to tip his lob away after Nolberto Solano had picked out his run.

But the hosts went ahead on 49 minutes when full-back Matty Robson picked out new arrival Brown at the far post and he controlled with his chest before smashing home a shot off the inside of the far post.

The lead latest just seven minutes when Ameobi exchanged passes with Dyer before rounding Budtz and sliding the ball into the empty net, and Owen cashed in on excellent play by Dyer and Troisi to make it 2-1 from close range two minutes later.

Ameobi claimed his second 17 minutes from time when Budtz fumbled his shot into the net to complete a good night's work for the Barclays Premier League side.

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