Full-time: Newcastle United 1 Crystal Palace 0
HE MAY have not been allowed to be at St James’ Park to see Papiss Cisse head home a late winner for Newcastle United against Crystal Palace, but Alan Pardew was dead-set on celebrating victory with his lieutenant John Carver.
After taking in the game from the Magpies Darsley Park training base in Longbenton, Pardew headed straight for Gallowgate to join Carver for a drink to mark the first victory since Hull City, better remembered for Pardew’s butt on David Meyler - which earned him a seven-match ban - than the result.
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One more game, at home to Everton tomorrow night, remains of Pardew’s three-match stadium ban, before the Newcastle boss serves the first of his touchline ban where he is allowed in the stadium but not in the technical area.
And Carver, who donned a club suit for post-match press conference duties as opposed to his usual casual garb, explained that the setup at St James’ Park allowed Pardew to get his message across to the coaching team a fair deal easier than he did at Fulham, a game which he watched in his hotel room in west London.
"It was mainly Steve Stone on the phone but I did speak to Alan a couple of times,” said Carver. “It was easier for him to speak to him most of the time and he passed on any messages or gave me instructions.
"Alan was not there in presence today and when your manager is not around the place, it can sometimes be difficult for players to focus but the good thing for me is that they know me and know what I am like and I have done this management job before and they know that.
“So I do not think there is a problem there. When you look at the game in general, we dominated without too much flair. But we created chances against a very difficult and awkward opponents. I do not think they had anything in mind about trying to win the game.
“They came here to get a point like they did at Sunderland last week. Their game plan was to make it difficult for us and they did but we stuck at it.
"Alan rang and told me to hang around here because he was coming down to have a beer with me."
John Carver takes a call from Alan Pardew
A week after coming away from the Stadium of Light with a 0-0 draw, history looked to be repeating itself for Palace, this time on Tyneside, but the second half introduction of Hatem Ben Arfa, who crossed for Cisse, ensured that the Magpies took maximum points.
It looked dead-set for a goalless draw up until that point, with fans streaming out of St James' Park convinced it was going to be another shut-out, with Palace set up to frustrate their opponents.
Cameron Jerome flashed an eighth minute header wide after a Cheik Tiote free-kick failed to trouble Julien Speroni in the Palace goal after three minutes.
Cisse looked bright in the opening 45 minutes, and saw a powerful shot saved well by Speroni after neat play from Vurnon Anita and Luuk De Jong.
Cisse was on the prowl on the half-hour mark when Moussa Sissoko laid it on a plate for the striker, and Speroni was once more on hand to deny Cisse's sidefoot volley.
The Argentinian stopper was on his toes again when Yoan Gouffran danced through the Palace defence and shot goalwards, before there were big claims for a penalty when it appeared that Scott Dann handballed in the area. Lee Probert did not give it though, and the Magpies were given a let-off five minutes before the break when Yannick Bolasie fired just over Tim Krul's crossbar.
The game had threatened to peter out before the introduction of Ben Arfa, who replaced De Jong on the hour-mark, and the Frenchman's influence was felt almost instantly.
The forward, taking up De Jong's vacated No.10 role, pulled the strings and looked more likely to make a positive impression than most of his teammates, Cisse excepted.
After Cisse was again denied by Speroni, Ben Arfa whipped in a right-footed cross for the Senegalese striker to head just wide of Speroni's post, while Ben Arfa's neat pass found Anita, whose shot was blocked by Dann.
Tiote smashed the crossbar in injury time, before Ben Arfa looped a cross in for Cisse, who made no mistake, beating the offside trap to nod past Speroni in front of the Gallowgate End.
In the run-up to Saturday’s game, it was hinted that Ben Arfa, heading into the final year of his contract on Tyneside, was playing for a new contract, and he looked revitalised in his first action since taking time off owing to a family illness.
Carver found some common ground with Newcastle’s enigmatic forward, after his father died in February, and admitted that he is getting on better with the France international.
“You have got to get inside his head,” explained Carver. “You have got to cuddle him. I am actually getting on quite well with him recently, probably the best I have ever got on with him. I have had a chance to sit down and talk to him.
“Obviously he had a few issues at home and it is well-known, I have had family issues as well. So it was quite nice to sit down with him. He is quite a nice guy when you sit down with him and have a real conversation about family life, nothing to do with football. And that brought us closer together.
"He is a maverick type player. I cast my mind back to when Chris Waddle played. You would think looking at him, sometimes he was up for it, sometimes he was not. Was he in the mood?
John Carver inspects Alan Pardew’s empty seat in the dug-out at St James’ Park
“And Hatem is like that. He is a flair player. But you do get a sense that you know where he is before the game has started. In the dressing room, you know if he is focused or not and on Saturday I thought he was really focused. Before the game, he was concentrating on what he had to do. He actually listened to the instructions when he went on and did what we asked him to do.”