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Football: Andy adds the Griff wrapping but Robert is Robbo's jewel; Newcastle 2 Charlton 1.

Byline: Martin HARDY

THE mercurial Laurent Robert was the toast of Tyneside last night as the Magpies continued their slow march up the Premiership.

It was not done with the style or the swagger that so epitomised Newcastle last season.

But this was a game they should have won at a canter against a Charlton side that were brave but for long spells outclassed.

Newcastle had to rely on Andy Griffin pulling them out of the mire after 37 minutes with a superb strike to cancel out Shaun Bartlett's opener.

Robert though, a menace the visitors just couldn't deal with, was the matchwinner on a day he reminded Tyneside of just why Sir Bobby Robson paid pounds 10.5 million for him.

The Frenchman fairly peppered Dean Kiely's goal and his penetrating runs were too much for Alan Curbishley's men as United made it four wins from their last five.

Fast

The games are coming thick and fast for the Magpies right now. Juventus at home last week, Kiev at St James' on Tuesday. But this is a side growing into the season after a start which questioned the validity of their fourth-placed finish last term.

Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy were absent again - the latter causing concern with a recurrence of his knee problem - and Shay Given was back in goal.

Yet it was Robert, one of the Magpies' more peripheral figures against the Italian champions who seemed a man with a point to prove.

Twice in the first 20 minutes he powered in efforts that were tipped to safety by Dean Kiely.

But the Irish understudy to the recalled Given had to thank his woodwork in the 22nd minute when one of the plethora of corners United had - 10 inside the first hour alone - was nodded goalwards by Gary Speed, clipped the right post, diverted across the face of a gaping goal passing Shearer for Richard Rufus to boot clear.

It was one-way traffic and moments later a flowing move that started with Jermaine Jeans on the edge of his own box ended with the same player volleying over Kiely's crossbar from 15 yards. Shola Ameobi spurned another glaring chance for the Magpies and by the half-hour mark they were somehow behind.

Andy O'Brien's weak header fell to Shaun Bartlett who rode a challenge from Bramble and drove beyond Given.

One-nil, first shot. Unbelievable. But this would be a good week to ask Andy Griffin to buy your lottery ticket for you. Ignored for most of last season, the Kenny Dalglish signing admits he wanted to leave. He didn't, and how he, his manager, and his team-mates must now be celebrating that decision.

Teed up by Shearer on the corner of the Charlton penalty area, the former England Under-21 international smashed home as cleanly hit a shot as you are likely to see all season.

One-all, normal service resumed? Not quite. Charlton have won five of their last nine games at St James' Park. And twice in the closing stages they could have restored the lead through Bartlett and Claus Jensen.

But this was a day when Robert was ready to open his own personal account for the season.

After 53 minutes he gave warning of what was to come with a 25-yard piledriver that Kiely did well to get a finger-tip to.

And seconds before the hour mark he finally the goal his display deserved. A superb link-up between Nolberto Solano and Shearer found Ameobi who in turn flicked on for Robert, overlapping on the United left and the straight left-footed drive that followed was clinical.

Euell then spurned a fine chance for the visitors and it took a saving tackle from a full stretched Aaron Hughes to deny Gary Rowett.

Then Robert missed a great chance to finish it.

But it didn't matter he'd done enough and it was two wins out of two in a home run of five on the trot.

Sir Bobby is slowly but surely getting that spring back in his step.

CAPTION(S):

SPEED OF FRIGHT: Charlton keeper Kiely looks terrified as Newcastle's Gary goes close, but Robert, above, made no mistake; THAT`'S ANDY: Shearer and scorer Griffin celebrate
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Oct 27, 2002
Words:699
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