NEWCASTLE, May 12 – Newcastle United manager Alan Shearer praised the "courage" of his players after their morale-boosting 3-1 win over north-east rivals Middlesbrough here at St James' Park. But he was soon thinking of his team’s final two games which will decide whether they can escape relegation from the Premier League this season.
"The players must enjoy that winning feeling because they have worked their socks off," Shearer said after Monday’s win.
"It’s been a great weekend for us and it’s in our hands now, but there are still two more games to come," the former Newcastle and England striker, currently in caretaker charge of his hometown club, added.
"I asked for three huge performances and they’ve given me one, but we need another in our next game against a very good Fulham side who are flying," explained Shearer, put in charge of the Magpies when Joe Kinnear stepped aside following heart problems.
"This is a magnificent feeling, it really is. I thought my players were brilliant because I asked them to show courage, determination and ability – and they did all of that," Shearer insisted.
"Sometimes you forget how to win matches and you get into a rut, but they’ve shown me what I see on the training ground. I believe we will survive."
Newcastle triumphed after going behind to an own-goal from Habib Beye and Shearer said: "It would have been easy to feel sorry for themselves after going 1-0 down, but it didn’t affect them."
United hit back with goals from Steven Taylor and substitutes Obafemi Martins and Peter Lovenkrands, but Shearer refused to take the credit for the timely replacements.
Instead, he singled out the contribution of Australia striker Mark Viduka, who has been troubled by a succession of injuries this season.
Shearer said: "He was brilliant. Even with 10 minutes left, he still had enough energy to cause them problems."
Newcastle are out of the bottom three as they approach a home game against Fulham before ending their season with a trip to Aston Villa.
Middlesbrough, by contrast, look doomed to relegation and are not even guaranteed survival if they win their remaining games at home to Aston Villa and at West Ham.
Manager Gareth Southgate said: "There is a lot of frustration and anguish in the dressing room because it was such an important game. It was difficult for us to take defeat after going ahead.
"Key events went against us and there was very little between the two teams. I don’t think 3-1 is a fair reflection of the game. We always looked a threat."
Southgate was particularly unhappy about Newcastle’s crucial second goal from Martins after detecting a foul by Viduka in the build-up and an intervention by Kevin Nolan when he was offside.
"They are key things and they have gone against us," he said.
He was equally unhappy about a foul by Nicky Butt that left Afonso Alves with a broken foot.
Southgate, a former England defender who played international football alongside Shearer, said of Butt’s challenge: "He had no intention of going for the ball and left him (Alves) with a broken bone.
"I thought that was a key turning point."
But Southgate refused to throw in the towel, saying Boro could yet preserve their Premier League status.
"It’s not over yet," he said. "We have to win the last two games – which we’re capable of doing."