Bolton (h) Premier League
Half time: Magpies 0 Trotters 0
Alan Pardew commented:
"The semi-finals will be important to us and we’ll be looking at them closely. If the results go against us, we’ll be up against Chelsea for a European place and that will be tough on us. It would be tough to take if we finished with this points total but didn’t make Europe. We’re not giving up on anything, apart from winning it.
all along if we can get to the last six games and be in and around (the
top six) we'll just give it a go and that's what our fans want to see
us do. Having an honest commitment to winning the game has got us where we
are now. We've got Stoke at home next - a very difficult game - and we'll
try and win that.
"We came here knowing that we faced a team riding high in the Barclays Premier League, with a good squad and having Champions League aspirations, as they fight it out at the top end of the table. We put in a battling performance and pushed them all the way.
"There is no doubt that it was a wonderful finish by Ben Arfa for his goal but we are disappointed that we didn't deal with the run. I think Sam Ricketts slipped in the centre and that allowed him to get away. Saying that, we were still very much in the game. We made some changes and brought on Ivan Klasnic and David Ngog and pushed forward. Ultimately we were undone by the second goal, but that was clearly offside.
"Despite the result, our performance was terrific today. We created a number of chances - Chris Eagles and Mark Davies made the Newcastle goalkeeper work hard and Darren Pratley was just a whisker away from converting too. It is a difficult result to take because for large periods of the game we stood toe-to-toe with Newcastle, but we leave disappointed.
"Our fate and our destiny is in
our own hands. We showed last month that when we bring it all together we
can secure back-to-back wins. I said to the players after the game that if
we bring that level of performance and quality to our next six matches we
have enough to ensure that we pick up points and we stay in the Barclays
Goals from Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse maintained Newcastle's European charge at St.James' Park on Monday afternoon as they made it five victories in succession. The win took us up a place into fifth and Chelsea's 1-1 at Fulham enough to see us remain there, a Norwich victory at Spurs meaning that we're level on points with 'Arry Redknapp's side, who sit fourth on goal difference.
A close-fought affair with little goalmouth action worthy of note was graced by an astonishing solo strike from Ben Arfa with seventeen second half minutes left to play. The win was then secured when Shola Ameobi set up Cisse for a close-range finish - his tenth goal in just nine games.
Alan Pardew's side welcomed back Fabricio Coloccini after a two game absence but were without Cheick Tiote - the versatile James Perch relocating from central defence to a midfield berth alongside Yohan Cabaye, who was passed fit after picking up a knock against Swansea on Friday.
The Magpies boss had witnessed Fulham's 3-0 romp at the Reebok on Saturday, but that could at least been partly due to the Manager of the Month "curse" falling on Owen Coyle - having claimed the March award after his team racked up three successive Premier League victories.
In front of a virtual full house, United struggled to make any headway against a solid Trotters side and too often were reduced to retaining possession via a succession of sideways and backwards passes - shades of Swansea's Good Friday frustration against us.
A long-ranger from Coloccini was United's sole effort on target, with centres and set pieces routinely gathered by Adam Bogdan. The exception to that was a dangerous Ben Arfa free kick that the Trotters 'keeper reached before a clutch of United players and punched clear - only for the ball to rebound off defender Ricketts and deflect wide.
With Jonas Gutierrez reverting to a central midfield spot after the break, Shane Ferguson was introduced to play down the left. Bolton began the brighter though and Tim Krul blocked one Chris Eagles effort before a Martin Petrov cross whistled across his six yard box.
United began pushing Bolton back closer to their own goal, with usual suspects David Wheater and Nigel Reo-Coker both prominent as some rugged and illegal defending was ignored by referee Mike Jones, to the annoyance of the crowd in general and Cabaye in particular.
Having struggled to pose a threat himself or link up with strike partner Cisse, Ba's frustration at giving way to Shola Ameobi just after the hour saw him apparently avoid a handshake offered by his manager as he left the field.
That change though proved to be pivotal, with Shola better equipped to withstand the defensive pressure of Wanderers and possessing of a long-standing Wheater intolerance - tangling with him as far back as December 2004, when the defender was in the smoggy stiffs.
The noise levels were cranked back up when Ben Arfa launched a free kick just wide of the Gallowgate goal, but the Frenchman soon had 50,000 fans on their feet to acclaim a goal that was at least the equal of his solo effort against Blackburn here back in January.
Having done his best to act as a target man against taller opponents (and routinely found himself fouled in the process), Cisse then came to prominence in the closing stages of the game as he finally gained some support.
Invigorated by the presence of Shola, the number 9 shot narrowly over and struck the goal frame from close range - straying offside during both moves. In between though, Cisse was in the right place to net from point-blank range after Ameobi broke into the box from the United right. That accomplished the remarkable feat of scoring ten goals in nine games, but was almost a sideshow in the wake of the goal that had come ten minutes earlier.
While United were winning, the mackems were going down 0-4 at Everton and now lie seventeen points behind us ensuring that we'll finish the season above them and retake possession of the mythical top dogs/bragging rights plaudits. They should have stuck with the Geordie....
Our lowest possible finishing position is
now eighth, although defeat for Liverpool on Tuesday would mean we would at
least equal the seventh place of 2005/06, with our fifth in 2003/04 now looking
distinctly achievable. A runners-up spot is still mathematically possible.