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Sun 10 Feb 2008 07:33 AM

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Newcastle decries Aston bullying

Newcastle's woeful run continued with a 4-1 Premier League defeat at Aston Villa.

Kevin Keegan accused his Newcastle players of being bullied as their woeful run continued with a 4-1 Premier League defeat at Aston Villa.

Keegan's side led at half-time on Saturday thanks to a Michael Owen header, but Aston Villa turned the game around thanks to a goal from Wilfred Bouma and John Carew's first hat-trick in English football.

The result leaves Keegan without a victory since returning to the club in January and his side are on a nine-game winless run. He admits they need to find more spirit within their ranks to ensure they are not dragged into a relegation battle.

"I had no complaints at half-time and we built a very good base on which to go and win a football match," Keegan said.

"We had handled everything Villa threw at us, and I impressed on the players just how important the first 15 minutes of the second half were.

"I said to go and pick up where we left off. You can talk about a bit of luck on their first goal."

"But after that you look at how our players would respond and that is probably the disappointing part."

"Before you knew it we were getting bullied, especially by John Carew, and also Marlon Harewood. They were doing what they wanted with us at times."

"We are fragile at the moment and need spirit and togetherness. I believe we have enough to be a Premier League club next season but are under no illusions that we need to get to the 40-point mark."

Carew's hat-trick was made up of two headers and a last minute penalty. He now has nine goals since moving to Aston Villa in pre-season.

"That type of form he is capable of," said Villa boss Martin O'Neill. "He was superb and in second half unplayable. What we want is to get that kind of consistency."

"You don't have to be scoring three goals, but it would be lovely. He has been great and excellent in the dressing room. I think he can be better."

Newcastle dominated the opening 45 minutes, and deserved their half-time lead.

Their goal came after four minutes, through England international Owen. The striker muscled his way amongst Aston Villa's defence to guide a header in to the net from a James Milner left wing cross.

Villa had opportunities, the best of which was a Carew header that was pushed away by Shay Given.

After the break the roles were reversed however, and Newcastle collapsed.

On 48 minutes, Bouma scored his first goal in English football as his right foot shot was deflected into the net.

Three minutes later it was 2-1 as Carew flicked an Ashley Young corner into the net.

Newcastle did little to try and force a way back in to the game. The determination and commitment that had been so apparent in the first half seemed to disappear.

Carew's second goal virtually sealed the game. He was able to head home past substitute goalkeeper Steve Harper as Newcastle failed to clear a corner.

In the final minute of normal time, Stephen Carr handled in his own area.

Carew stepped forward to drill the ball into the roof of the net from the penalty spot.

"Marlon Harewood came on as a substitute and gave us a lift with his power and enthusiasm," said Norwegian forward Carew.

"It was fantastic to score a hat-trick. Gareth Barry is supposed to take penalties, but he let me take that one. I decided to smash it, I don't normally do that."

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