ALAN Pardew feels Newcastle United are in an ideal position to qualify for the last 32 of the Europa League following last night's thrilling 2-2 draw with Club Brugge.
Had Newcastle claimed a second-half winner, they would have secured their place in the knock-out phase with two games to spare.
As it is, they need to beat Portuguese side Maritimo at St James' Park in two weeks' time to guarantee qualification ahead of December's testing trip to second-placed Bordeaux.
“With all due respect to them, we are going to have to kick ourselves if we don't beat Maritimo at home,” said Pardew, whose side drew with their next opponents in Madeira in September.
“We have got ourselves in a great position and are looking to just wrap the league up perhaps with that win in our next game.”
Last night's stand-out performers were Sammy and Shola Ameobi, who became only the third set of brothers to have started a competitive fixture together for Newcastle.
They combined for Newcastle's all-important second goal, with Sammy slotting through a pinpoint through ball to enable Shola to stab home his 14th goal in European competition.
The 31-year-old striker remains a potent attacking weapon, while his younger brother, Sammy, is rapidly emerging as one of the brightest young talents in the Premier League.
Sammy was recalled to the England Under-21 squad yesterday and Pardew was impressed with the maturity of his display in the Jan Breydel Stadion.
“We had Ameobi to Ameobi – which is almost like a song – for the second goal, which was nice,” said the Newcastle boss. “I thought they were both very good.
“It was a great little turn from Sammy. He's just got this way of getting out of corners that I have not seen many players being able to get out of. He wriggles out of situations.
“He still needs to tighten up a little bit on the tactical and intelligence sides of the game. He takes people on where perhaps he should pass, but he will learn that and he really showed his talent tonight.”
Shola's goal followed a fantastic first-time volley from Anita and enabled Newcastle to overcome a dreadful opening spell that saw them concede twice inside the opening quarter of the game.
Fabricio Coloccini was at fault for the first goal, allowing a long ball to pass over his head before Ivan Trickovski slotted home, and both James Tavernier and Tim Krul might have done better with Brugge's second, with the former's weak header enabling Jesper Jorgensen to drill a low shot past the Newcastle goalkeeper.
The visitors' spirited response to the double setback provided yet another illustration of the strength of the spirit within the camp, and Pardew felt a point was the least his side deserved for a bright and industrious showing.
“We keep talking about the spirit at Newcastle and it's in the younger group too,” he said. “It's going to be there because it filters down.
“I thought it was a terrific game. It was open, we didn't sit back and ask them to unlock us. We went at them, they went at us and it was a good night of football.
“We gifted them a goal, and then gifted another one. I was surprised because I felt we were in good shape and were creating chances. I thought we would score goals, so it was just important not to let any more in.
“We got a great goal from Anita after a good bit of pressure and then immediately got the second before half-time, which was a bonus really.
“We came in at half-time in a strong position and really all we did in the second half was just to make sure defensively we were sound.”
Pardew praised the 8,000-or-so Newcastle fans who made the trip to Belgium, and whose behaviour both in and out of the stadium ensured the evening passed without major incident.
“From all accounts, and I hope I am right in saying this, they have conducted themselves well around the town and in good humour,” he said. “They have been a credit to the city and I hope it stays like for the rest of the night because they should be proud of the team. This is a good result, trust me.”