West Ham United were frustrated by a Newcastle United comeback on Saturday having raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening 22 minutes of what was to prove an entertaining contest at the Boleyn Ground.
Keegan's side fought back to rescue a draw and continue their hoodoo over the home side, who have failed to beat the Tynesiders in their past nine meetings. On a day dedicated to the fund founded in the memory of 108-times capped West Ham United legend Bobby Moore, this was certainly not a game for the defensive purists, who saw Mark Noble and Dean Ashton send Alan Curbishley's side into a two-goal lead, before a quick-fire double from Obafemi Martins and Geremi brought the visitors level by the break.
Following last week's win over Derby County, Alan Curbishley made just one change from the side that beat the relegated Rams, as Ashton returned in place of young Freddie Sears, while fit-again former Magpie, Nolberto Solano, took his place on the bench alongside Carlton Cole, Hayden Mullins, Luis Boa Morte and Jimmy Walker.Last Sunday, Keegan's men had extended their unbeaten run to six games with a victory over Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby that guaranteed themselves Premier League safety and the Newcastle United boss made just a solitary switch as David Edgar came in for Abdoulaye Faye.
Kicking off the 500th Premier League match, two rungs and five points ahead of the visitors, tenth-placed West Ham United quickly went in search of the win. With just three minutes on the clock, Julien Faubert deposited a curling free-kick from the left flank on to the roof of Steve Harper's net and, shortly afterwards, Ashton forced the Newcastle keeper to save his low 18-yarder. Roared on by the claret and blue fans amongst the short-sleeved crowd of 34,980, Curbishley's side continued to seize the early initiative as Bobby Zamora went close with a far post header, too.
A goal was not far away and, sure enough, on ten minutes, the ever-present George McCartney - making his 51st consecutive appearance - whipped back a clever centre towards the penalty spot, where the unmarked Noble sent an equally intelligent falling volley into the net, to claim his third goal of the campaign.
Certainly, the midfielder's technique in netting in open play for the first time this season would have met with the approval of the watching Paolo Di Canio, but alongside the rest of the watching Boleyn Ground crowd, the irascible Italian would have been equally concerned at the sight of Freddie Ljungberg being carried off following a heavy collision Steven Taylor, midway through the first half.
With the sympathetic applause for the Swede still ringing around the stadium and his replacement Boa Morte still finding his feet, the noise levels quickly rose as West Ham United doubled their lead. This time, Robert Green launched the ball upfield towards the head of Zamora who nodded into the path of Ashton and after holding off Edgar 12 yards out, the home side's top-scorer neatly threaded a low, angled shot into the bottom left-hand corner to bag his ninth goal of the season.
In reply, Michael Owen, having struck six goals in six games, was denied by a brilliant block header from the jockeying James Tomkins, but after Habib Beye was booked for tripping escaping ex-Magpie Scott Parker, Newcastle somehow conjured up two goals in the final three minutes of a half in which they had been thoroughly outplayed.
On 42 minutes, Joey Barton sent a lofted though-pass into the path of the hitherto anonymous Obafemi Martins, who momentarily mis-controlled before recovering to loft the ball over the Green from 15 yards. Having given his side a glimmer of hope, the Nigerian international then latched on to a weak defensive clearance, which was heading towards Barking Road, before the alert Geremi rose highest to redirect the wayward effort under the right-hand angle, to significantly change the tenor of both half-time team-talks.
Just after restart Boa Morte flashed a shot across the face of goal, but it was Uriah Rennie who suddenly found himself the centre of attention as he scribbled down the names of the industrious Faubert, Nicky Butt and John Pantsil for a string of over-zealous tackles. Midway through the second half, Cole was pitched into the fray in place of the tiring Zamora and as West Ham tried to rediscover their early, first-half dominance, Ashton forced Harper to save his thunderous low, 30-yard screamer and then the blond striker hooked across the face of goal.
McCartney also arrived on the scene to blast high and wide after a frantic goalmouth scramble and, with ten minutes remaining, Harper produced a sensational save to palm over Ashton's goal-bound, 15-yard sizzler, while at the other end, Green proved equally brilliant to deny Martins and ensure that it ended all-square ahead of next week's trip to wounded Manchester United.