A VICTORY for Sir Bobby Robson on the weekend of his fourth anniversary at St. James' Park would have been the perfect way to kickstart Newcastle United's campaign.

Instead, a battling Bolton Wanderers were the typical party-poopers and Newcastle's alarming start to the season continued on Tyneside.

When Robson took over from Ruud Gullit in September 1999, his tenure got off to the perfect beginning with an 8-0 hammering of Sheffield Wednesday in front of the Geordie faithful.

That day Alan Shearer smashed in five goals; but, on Saturday, neither Newcastle nor Shearer were going to repeat their feats. The talismanic striker has grabbed all of his side's goals so far this season; a worrying statistic after five games that has put pressure on the rest of the team to find the net.

Shearer has been the one bright light at Newcastle during a dreadful spell. They have failed to win any of their Premiership fixtures and have had to overcome the embarrassment of failing to earn a place in the Champions League - something they clearly have not yet managed to erase from their minds.

But the former England skipper never looked like adding to his tally against Bolton; meaning Newcastle had to face up to the prospect of recording a goalless draw for the first time in 78 matches. The point picked up by Robson's men did little to improve their position at the lower end of the top-flight table.

Second from bottom, three points and without a win in five outings.

It is not happy reading for discontented Newcastle fans, who are still dreaming of more nights like those which saw the likes of Juventus and Inter Milan arrive in the North-East last season.

While many supporters may have already given up hope of finishing in the top four again come May, Robson is refusing to rule anything out. And the vastly-experienced boss is convinced he can guide his team through a depressing slump - which he claimed was the worst period of his time at Newcastle after the home defeat to Birmingham late last month.

Robson knows his future at the club has been questioned in recent weeks and he is desperate to see Newcastle start to turn things around this week - with a UEFA Cup date with NAC Breda and a daunting trip to Arsenal next on the agenda.

"You never lose your optimism and you never lose your ambition," said Robson. "Champions League football is the expectancy we have created at this club.

"I like the fact we are talking about Champions League, but it just shows how well we have done here over recent years.

"We are in choppy waters and we have to row together, see it through. We have a difficult week. We have a game on Wednesday and then we go to Arsenal 48 hours later. We can't moan about it, we just have to roll up our sleeves."

There were signs of improvement against Bolton.

However, the Trotters defended superbly with ex-Sunderland defender Thome and Simon Charlton doing their jobs well on the much-feared firing-line of Craig Bellamy and Shearer.

Thome was at the heart of the Sheffield Wednesday defence when Shearer hit five in 1999.

The Brazilian, handed a free transfer from the Black Cats in the summer, was obviously in no mood to allow the Newcastle legend to enjoy a similar day on Saturday.

While Thome stood firm, his fellow centre-back Charlton made block after block to deny a number of attacks from the home side, whose only clear shot on target was a 35-yard drive from Andy Griffin after 14 minutes, which was easily dealt with by Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Gary Speed and Titus Bramble both had headers bounce off the crossbar and Bruno N'Gotty did superbly to make a last ditch block on Shearer, who was all set to shoot on goal after bursting through. Robson had given Laurent Robert - fined two weeks' wages after outspoken comments - one last chance to prove he is worth his place.

And the £10m Frenchman always looked the most likely player to create something.

Just after half-time it was Robert's pass which put Shearer through. But the usually reliable captain fired over the bar from just inside the penalty area.

A dogged and determined Bolton side, with Spaniard Ivan Campo instrumental as he sat just in front of the back four, deserved the point they were looking for. For Newcastle, though, there are a few more restless times ahead and they need to quickly find the attacking creativity that was so evident last season.

Robson is confident his players can change the situation around, he said: "It will turn, we need a bit of luck. The players are disappointed because we've dropped two points, and we know that.

"We did the same last week. We've had two draws now where we could have won both games.

"We were always looking to win it here - they'll be highly delighted with a point because that's what they came for and they've got it.

"They had a certain game plan and I suppose they nullified us, but they had that luck that our two headers hit the bar, they had the luck that our other little chances just didn't go in."

Result: Newcastle United 0, Bolton Wanderers 0.

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