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Newcastle serve up feast fit for 'King Kev'.

Newcastle 4

Stoke 1

NEWCASTLE rediscovered their killer touch as Kevin Keegan strode back into St James' Park to herald yet another new era.

Keegan arrived back on Tyneside with immaculate timing to see the 10-man Magpies serve up one of their most impressive performances of the season and book an FA Cup fourth-round trip to Arsenal.

The former player and manager took his seat in the directors' box 20 minutes after kick-off and at times it seemed as if he had never been away as the club's players threw off the shackles of Sam Allardyce's reign to take Stoke apart.

True, they will face far stronger opposition in the Barclays Premier League this season, and will face Bolton on Saturday with midfielders Emre, Alan Smith and Nicky Butt suspended.

But it was the manner in which they dealt with the Coca-Cola Championship promotion contenders in front of an ecstatic crowd of 35,108 which will have pleased Keegan and beaming owner Mike Ashley.

Michael Owen's first goal since October 7 started the ball rolling with just eight minutes gone and after Emre had been sent off for a challenge on John Eustace, defender Claudio Cacapa doubled the advantage 14 minutes before the break.

James Milner made sure on 68 minutes and Damien Duff's first goal at St James' with 14 minutes remaining would have been the icing on the cake had Liam Lawrence not pulled one back at the death.

In truth, the game for all but caretaker manager Nigel Pearson and his players had been rendered largely irrelevant by the news of Keegan's appointment, which broke shortly before 4.30pm.

Such was the desire to share in a significant night on Tyneside kick-off had to be delayed by 15 minutes as fans flocked to buy tickets in the wake of the announcement that Keegan was on his way back.

Allardyce ultimately paid the price for not producing the required levels of excitement, but it was in abundant supply once again from the off.

Owen settled the nerves by curling a sixth-minute effort just over the bar at the other end, and then struck decisively when his chance arrived two minutes later.

Milner saw his header from Duff's cross blocked at the far post but the England international, who had gone eight games without a goal for his club, made no mistake from close range.

Newcastle were dominating with Duff and Emre forcing saves from Steve Simonsen in quick succession, although the Turkey international's evening was to end in stunned disappointment 16 minutes before the break. The former Inter Milan star, who had earlier been left nursing a huge lump on his shin by Eustace's rugged challenge, was adjudged to have attempted to exact his revenge on the same player and was instantly dismissed by Uriah Rennie.

But they shook off their sense of injustice to extend their lead when Cacapa headed Charles N'Zogbia's 31st-minute corner home at the near post.

Milner sealed the victory with a fine right-foot strike inside the far post on 68 minutes and Duff took advantage of a blistering break to add a fourth eight minutes later, although Lawrence had the final say with an 89th-minute consolation.

The club's players threw off the shackles of Sam Allardyce's reign to take Stoke apart


Newcastle United's Michael Owen celebrates scoring the opening goal during the FA Cup third round replay at St James' Park last night
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 17, 2008
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