St. James’ Park under the lights for an 8pm Premier League kick-off. That’s the scene that was set for 2004-05’s first meeting between Newcastle United and Norwich City.
Newcastle United 2-2 Norwich City
August 25, 2004
St. James’ Park
What was on the line?
The Bobby Robson era had been one of success since he took the helm at Newcastle in 1999. After finishing 11th in his first two seasons, Robson took the Magpies to fourth, third, and then fifth in the Premier League prior to the 2004-05 campaign.
Expectations were high, then, for another great season, but a slow start was a sign of things to come. Prior to the arrival of Norwich City on Tyneside, United had drawn 2-2 at Middlesbrough and lost 1-0 at home to Tottenham Hotspur in the league.
As for Nigel Worthington’s Norwich, they had enjoyed their fair share of success too, finishing sixth, eighth and then winning the Championship in his first three seasons in charge.
In terms of their Premier League aspirations, the hope was that the Canaries could stay in the topflight having returned to it for the first time in a decade. Similarly to Newcastle, however, the situation looked sour when City drew at home to Crystal Palace and lost to Manchester United in the first two games of the season.
How it happened
The hosts took the lead when Craig Bellamy (who had warned that he wouldn’t want to stay at Newcastle should they beat Manchester United to sign Wayne Rooney) volleyed in against his former club from Alan Shearer’s header five minutes before half-time, and it was Newcastle who started the second half as they had finished the first, Aaron Hughes getting his head on the end of a Laurent Robert cross in the 50th minute for 2-0.
But City made clear their intentions of getting back into the game instantly, David Bentley – recently brought in on loan from Arsenal - scoring from 20-yards out just two minutes later, with the help of Shay Given spilling it beneath him.
Gary Doherty was on hand to tap home a late rebound past Republic of Ireland teammate Given with 15 minutes remaining, ensuring a point came back to Norfolk and keeping City 16th in the Premier League. Newcastle sat just above them in 15th.
Had Darren Huckerby’s 85th minute volley flown just under the crossbar rather than over it, it could have been a very different story for City come the end of the season. Fine margins indeed.
Norwich City: Green, Edworth, Doherty, Fleming, Charlton, Drury, Bentley (McKenzie 71), Francis, Holt, Huckerby, McVeigh (Jonson 67)
Subs not used: Svensson, Ward, Helveg
What happened next?
Rooney signed for United, but not the Newcastle variety, as they lost 4-2 at Aston Villa before eventually losing patience with Mr. Robson, replacing him with caretaker manager John Carver and then Graeme Souness permanently, who oversaw a run of three wins and two draws in the next five matches, including a 4-3 victory against Manchester City.
Souness remained in charge for the rest of the season, taking United to a 14th place finish and the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup, when they were knocked out by Sporting Lisbon in Portugal.
The Souness era ended in February the following season after a run of six games without a win.
In the East, it took Norwich until November and the 14th league game of the season at home to Southampton to get the first win under their belts. Four games without defeat in April wasn’t enough to avoid relegation, as City finished 19th, just one point adrift of safety.
Back in the Championship, City finished ninth before parting ways with Worthington for Peter Grant in October of the 2006-07 campaign.