Harper fails to grab chance
By Peter ORourke
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Steve Harper may be waiting a long time for his next Premiership outing.Steve Harper may be waiting a long time for his next Premiership outing for Newcastle after his mistake against Tottenham.
The long-serving goalkeeper was making only his second Premiership appearance in nearly four years after an injury to Shay Given.
How he will want to forget his showing at White Hart Lane when he was to blame for the only goal of the game.
Harper's kicking was suspect all afternoon and he had a lucky escape early in the game when he sliced a back-pass for a corner.
His luck ran out just before half time when he made a right hash of Celestine Babayaro's back-pass with his clearance being blocked by Simon Davies and Jermaine Defoe capitalised to net the winning goal.
It was not the impression Harper was hoping to make in the absence of Given as he looks to dislodge the Irishman as number one at St James' Park and he failed to grab his chance to shine.
Newcastle boss Steve Harper refused to blame the keeper for the defeat, but he will be hoping the reliable Given will be fit to return to action this week as Newcastle embark on two games which are set to shape their season.
Ahead of their Uefa Cup quarter final with Sporting and FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United Newcastle will need all their top players to stand up and be counted.
Nicky Butt endured another disappointing outing in North London and his miserable afternoon was summed up when he was hauled off midway through the second half for Darren Ambrose.
Butt arrived at Newcastle from Manchester United last summer with high expectations, but he has failed to hit the heights.
The midfielder has struggled to show his best form on Tyneside and his below-par performances have become a real mystery for the Toon Army.
Butt is a shadow of the player he was at Old Trafford and he is dropping well down the pecking order in the England set-up with his chances of breaking back into the side looking slim.
With Newcastle's midfield options down to the bare bones with the suspensions of Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer Souness needs Butt to be back to his best and soon.
How Souness will be hoping that Butt can rise to the occasion in Portugal on Thursday and then against his old team-mates at the Millennium Stadium next weekend as Newcastle look to keep their season alive.