GARY SPEED waved the Premiership white flag last night by confessing Newcastle United's title challenge was over as Craig Bellamy was left staring at the possible consequences of displaying his hair-trigger temperament.

Speed, 33, wrote off Newcastle's chances of catching leaders Arsenal after the defeat to Middlesbrough left them eight points adrift of the Gunners with just nine matches remaining.

And in another blow to the Magpies' Premiership prospects, it was understood last night that Bellamy faces a Football Association charge for using foul and abusive language after Wednesday's derby defeat at Middlesbrough.

Bellamy was one of a posse of Newcastle players who confronted referee Andy D'Urso and his assistants in the centre circle shortly after the final whistle.

The FA would not confirm yesterday that 23-year-old Bellamy, who has already served two Champions League bans this season, would be subject to disciplinary action.

But his comments to one of the assistant referees were believed to have left him in danger of earning a Premiership suspension at the business end of the season once the FA have studied D'Urso's report when it arrives at Soho Square today.

John Carver, Sir Bobby Robson's No 2, appeared to have played peacemaker when he stepped in to stop Bellamy et al confronting the officials.

But Carver revealed last night: "I think I was showing some of the players' frustrations.

"The good and pleasing thing is that I didn't swear at anybody, even though I was very upset and disappointed with decisions that were made over 90 minutes."

Robson claimed in the aftermath of the Middlesbrough game that the Magpies would continue to apply pressure on Arsenal and Manchester United, even though their championship prospects had suffered a huge blow at the Riverside.

But when asked if the result had ended Newcastle's hopes of lifting the Premiership, Speed said: "I think so. The title is a bit out of our reach now.

"With all due respect to Middlesbrough, we've beaten better teams than them this season, and it was down to us that we didn't win.

"We didn't play well enough on the night, even though we've been playing well recently.

"But if you look at Arsenal and Manchester United, I don't think they would have lost that game.

"Although we're getting closer to Arsenal and United, that's the difference between us.

"Even when Arsenal and Manchester United play badly, they scrape a win or something."

Despite the despondent mood that was brought on by the derby defeat, Speed reckons Newcastle are just a year away from mounting a serious assault on the big two's position at the summit of English football.

Robson has maintained throughout this season that he is satisfied with the development of his young side on the domestic and European scenes.

Wales international Speed, too, is confident that the Magpies are progressing nicely and will be a significant player in next season's title race.

He said: "The Middlesbrough game was a lesson for us because, whatever you say about the referee, we didn't play well enough to win the game.

"We've got to learn to do that, and hopefully we will learn that lesson. We're not that far away and we want to be in their position this time next year.

"We're aiming to improve season by season and go in the right direction, and hopefully next season we can do that.

"We want to be able to go to places like Middlesbrough, have an off-day and still win.

"It's a sign of how far we've come that we're desperately disappointed that we didn't win and that we lost in the League for the first time since Boxing Day.

"But we can bounce back. We've got nine games left in the League. We're capable of winning every one of them and hopefully we can.

"We're going to go and get as high up the table as we can. We've just got to keep pushing and keep going."

Speed limped off towards the end of the Riverside derby after sustaining an ankle injury, but he should be fit for next Tuesday's crucial Champions League clash at Internazionale.