Leicester City (h) Premier League
Half time: Magpies
0 Foxes 0
"I know the word desperation is sometimes not the right vocabulary for a football manager, but we were desperate today and it was an important win for everybody.
"When you have been a manager as long as I have and experienced a team that's not functioning, you have to work doubly-hard and try to protect yourself from the pressures that are coming.
"I have had to take a lot of criticism and I have accepted that, you have to. But the most important thing is we can move on from this because this isn't going to be the be all and end all for us, beating Leicester.
"We need to beat some top teams and we need to improve as a team. It will help us this week in our work and instill some confidence in some players who I know can be better than they are showing.
"I tend to watch (Match of the Day) even when it's nasty and horrible (presumably he means when Robbie Savage is on). It's important for me to keep up to date with what's being said about your team and other teams. But certainly I will watch it with a smile tonight.
"We have been playing under huge
pressure, we have been working under huge pressure - you can't get away from
it in this city - and it's difficult.
"I just kept on working hard. I know the most important thing is working when people don't see you. It's easy to train when you have got the coaches patting you on the back, but these moments when you are by yourself are the moments when you really have to work hard and dig deep."
"We felt at times we could have
played with a bit more intensity in the first half but that happens from time
to time. We managed the game relatively well in the first half, limited the
chances they had and put them under a bit of pressure.
typically bonkers afternoon on Tyneside ended with United securing a first
Premier League win of the season at the eighth attempt, thanks to a second
half strike from the most unlikely source of Gabriel Obertan.
The source of the 60 minute delay was a newly-installed scoreboard at the Leazes End that had to be made safe before the crowd could be allowed entry. By kick-off, Newcastle's starting XI had also altered from that published at 2.30pm, with Cheick Tiote dropping out of the squad completely
Vurnon Anita stepped up from the bench, while the elusive Facundo Ferreyra taking his place among the substitutes for the first time in the Premier League. Rather oddly, media reports filed at the time from those in the pressbox mentioned a head injury, but Alan Pardew subsequently spoke about Tiote having a tight calf after his international double header. However the manager's comments suggested the Ivorian was never considered for selection today, which plainly wasn't the case.
With Tim Krul, Daryl Janmaat and Paul Dummett all recovering from injuries that kept them from international duty last week, the only other change from the lineup that drew with Swansea saw Steven Taylor come in for Mike Williamson (later confirmed as carrying an injury, along with Sammy Ameobi and Emmanuel Riviere).
Starting back to back league games for the first time since January 2013, Gabriel Obertan's break upfield from a Leicester corner should have led to an eighth minute opener for Newcastle - only for Fabricio Coloccini to miss the target when perfectly placed to score from Moussa Sissoko's pass.
Defensive colleague Paul Dummett then won possession deep in City territory before trying his luck, his on-target effort from distance not troubling Kasper Schmeichel. Within seconds though the Foxes counter-attacked and Matthew James could only direct a weak shot at Krul - a rare piece of forward play by Nigel Pearson's side.
Despite posing little threat though, City came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half when Marc Albrighton's deep centre from the left spun off Krul's left post before deflecting safely away.
At the other end meanwhile, a half chance for Papiss Cisse saw him get his shot away and it take a deflection that momentarily looked to be taking it into the goal before it passed wide of the target.
Sissoko had similar ill fortune via a rebound five minutes into the second half, before Cisse came still closer when latching on to a back pass and taking the ball round the goalkeeper. As the angle reduced though, his first time effort ended up only in the side netting.
Keeping the pressure on, Schmeichel clawed away Jack Colback's free kick before Taylor could do nothing but lift his first-time effort over the bar with an hour played. At the other end, Leicester entertained thoughts of snatching a goal introducing strike duo David Nugent and Jamie Vardy as one or two dangerous crosses caused some noticeable discomfort in the home defence.
Then came the breakthrough, as Richie de Laet's fierce shot rebounded off Colback on the edge of the box and fell kindly for Cisse in acres of space. He crossed the halfway line before spraying a pass out towards Obertan on the left. Continuing his forward run, the Frenchman cut across the edge of the area to elude two defenders before firing in a low shot for only his second-ever league goal.
There were a few scares at either end in the remaining time played, with Krul pulling off one good block from Drinkwater after a corner and Cisse planting a header into the ground from substitute Ayoze Perez's cross that Schmeichel reached and tipped over.
If Obertan ended the day as the matinee idol of the SJP crowd though, then the big screen hero was the engineer who turned out to secure the offending piece of board and allow the match to go ahead at all. As he celebrated victory with "a glass of wine" on Saturday in what was his 700th match as a manager, Alan Pardew might wish to raise a toast in his direction.
In the cold light of day though when relief subsides, reality has to intervene and this has to be seen for what it was: a hard-fought but rarely inspired victory that failed to lift us up the table and saw us struggle to see off moderate opposition who didn't simply didn't look to have a goal in them.
That's despite getting only positive reactions from a home crowd who kept faith with both team and manager despite their enforced wait - the only banner on show today was a wonga-sponsored club one that was ham-fistedly passed over the heads of those in the Gallowgate End before kickoff.
The pre-match managerial rabble-rousing had centred on two players who have done the most to try and breathe life into this ailing corpse, but Pardew's eulogising of both Obertan and Cisse has an a air of desperation, grabbing on to them in an effort to stay afloat like a lifebelt in the ocean.
The inability of club and agent to find anyone willing to take him on loan or a permanent basis left "the screaming skull" in situ, while only a knee injury prevented the striker's sale overseas (keen to leave, Cisse apparently preferred to remain in England).
That's not to underplay the effort that Obertan has put recently, more pointing out the "masterplan" didn't involve him, omitted from the New Zealand squad along fellow discard Hatem Ben Arfa and playing Queen of the South at the training ground when our glorious new era began against Sydney.
Favoured over Hatem for a better attitude in training (and for having been Pardew's favoured signing choice once upon a time), Obertan's resurgence began against the likes of Sheffield Wednesday but has only transferred through to the Premier League since the injury to rookie Rolando Aarons. Were the teenager still fulfilling his early promise, we'd doubtless be seeing the odd cameo sub role from a player who has been mostly "unplayable" in a different sense to that currently spoken of.....
While one Frenchman has upped his game though and there were also welcome signs of some increased effort and mobility from compatriot Sissoko, the demise of Yoan Gouffran from asset to liability now seems complete - today another of those games when it's hard to think of a single positive contribution he made in the opposition half of the field.
Pausing only to express our concern at the lack of defensive options that left Steven Taylor in the side, Mike Williamson out, Massadio Haidara covering on the bench and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa juggling international football with Serie A/Champions League success, we'll press on.
In addition to renewed confidence and team spirit, our main hope appears to be that enough points can be collected for the team to stay in contention with the other strugglers until such time that the likes of Siem De Jong and Remy Cabella can contribute effectively to the team.
As to just how, why and when that will come about, god knows frankly - our answer would remain a different coach, or any coach at all. Like the scoreboard, a patched up running repair may have allowed the show to go on, but the inquest into what went wrong is both necessary and overdue.
Enjoy the three points, quite when we'll repeat that feat is open to considerable question.
This report is dedicated to Bill Haigh, who died earlier this month after a
long illness. Pictured above with son Gavin at the last game he attended in
April 2008, Bill was an avid fan for 65 years and had accompanied Gavin to
St.James' Park since October 1976. Our condolences go out to his family.