Newcastle’s capital punishment ends (December 2001)

Newcastle United were going through a terrible run in the capital when they arrived at Highbury for a pre-Christmas fixture with Arsenal in 2001. They hadn’t won on any of their last 29 visits to London since triumphing away at Crystal Palace in November 1997. That four-year drought included a 5-0 drubbing from Arsenal on their most recent trip to Highbury.

Sir Bobby Robson’s side were going really well in 2001-2002 and a two-goal win here would see them overtake Liverpool FC to go to the top of the table. Their travel jinx though meant this was unlikely. Newcastle had already lost in London at West Ham United and Fulham earlier in the season.

It seemed to be going to the formbook when Robert Pires fired Arsenal ahead after 18 minutes. Tring official Graham Poll had a busy evening and his controversial decision to send off Ray Parlour for a second bookable offence before half-time swung the balance in Newcastle’s favour. Although they lost Craig Bellamy to a similarly harsh red card in the second half, the Magpies’ capital punishment was about to end.

Andy O’Brien’s near post header drew them level and late goals by Alan Shearer from the penalty spot and Laurent Robert ended the rot. At the 30th attempt since that Selhurst Park success, Newcastle United had finally won a Premier League game in London.

The end of the match was overshadowed by Thierry Henry’s attempts to question Poll’s performance which saw him charged with misconduct by the FA but that took nothing away from a magical night for the Toon Army supporters. Newcastle United would spend Christmas Day 2001 top of the Premier League table.

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