ALAN PARDEW is hoping Loic Remy's dramatic stoppage-time winner against Aston Villa draws a line under Newcastle United's recent struggles and gives the club the momentum required to kick on again in the final two-and-a-half months of the season.
Remy struck with almost the final kick of the game to end the Magpies' run of more than seven-and-a-half hours without a Premier League goal and secure a first home victory of 2014.
The 1-0 win lifts Newcastle back above Southampton into eighth position and ameliorates at least some of the frustration that had built on the back of recent heavy home defeats to Sunderland and Tottenham.
With question marks continuing to hang over the future of a number of key players, the remainder of the campaign could still contain some difficult moments for the Magpies.
But at least yesterday's victory has quelled the mounting sense of crisis, with Pardew hoping it provides a springboard for the final 11 games.
“The win will settle us down,” said the Newcastle boss, who was able to recall Remy to the starting line-up after the Frenchman completed a three-match ban. “I would like to think we can now show more composure around the box.
“Players were doing things around the box which they shouldn't have – I know they are better than that. You hear managers talking about momentum, and there will be a huge difference around the training ground. They can be a little bit calmer.
“We are on 40 points now and I think we have had a decent season, but the recent run has put pressure on my staff and my team. I don't feel comfortable with that, my staff being under pressure.
“You can be very resilient as a manager, but I was desperate to get a result for my team and our fans, who have had to be very patient at home. We have not been very good at home since Stoke (on Boxing Day).”
Newcastle merited their success on the back of their second-half performance, which saw them gradually begin to dominate their opponents and create the kind of chances that were not apparent before the interval.
Remy struck the post with three minutes remaining, but was more clinical when a final chance presented itself in the second minute of stoppage time.
Having won possession after Luuk de Jong's deflected shot looped into the box, the Frenchman twisted past Ron Vlaar before rifling home the 12th goal of a hugely successful loan spell from QPR.
“I thought Remy was the one player on the pitch to have that composure to score that goal,” said Pardew. “He was the best player on the pitch today.
“The game seemed a little bit slower when he was on the ball, not as frantic. The high-class players like him can slow a game down. He is going to be hot property this summer.
Loic Remy is congratulated by his Newcastle United team-mates after scoring the winner
“But to be honest, we should have scored before we did. Papiss (Cisse) missed a sitter, and I was desperate for him to score. We had a handball as well (when the ball appeared to brush Leandro Bacuna's hand in the box). Remy should have scored from Luuk's cut back, and I was beginning to wonder.”
While Remy's winner was extremely welcome given Newcastle's lengthy wait for a goal, yesterday's defensive improvement was equally significant.
Having conceded three goals against Sunderland and four goals against Spurs, the Magpies desperately needed to keep things much tighter at the back, and Fabricio Coloccini's return from injury was a major factor in their successful handling of a Villa side that have suffered just five away defeats this term.
Mike Williamson looked much more comfortable with Coloccini alongside him, and after the instability of recent weeks, yesterday's display was much more defensively solid.
“Willo was fantastic against (Christian) Benteke,” said Pardew. “He was outstanding. We really needed a clean sheet, and if we had drawn 0-0, I would have been raving about our defensive display.
“Colo wasn't really ready. He had a few balls down the channels where he wasn't very comfortable, but he'd only trained for eight or nine days and his presence was everything on the pitch.
“The result sometimes justifies the means, and he was a big part of the clean sheet. There was a lot of calmness from him when otherwise there were a lot of erratic people on the ball today. But not him because he never gets in that mode.”