WITH pressure growing on Alan Pardew from the stands, the Newcastle United manager has challenged his players to end the season on a high after suffering a third heavy defeat in a row.
Manchester United's comfortable 4-0 victory on Tyneside increased the frustration among the fans and Pardew was back inside St James' Park to witness the latest reversal and hear some of the disgruntled views.
Newcastle are seemingly destined to finish in the Premier League's top ten this season, but the recent problems extend right back to the start of the year and that has not gone unnoticed by supporters.
Including the FA Cup defeat to Chelsea in January, the Magpies have now lost 11 of their last 16 games and have failed to score in 11 matches during that run.
The horrible sequence of results, which has coincided with he sale of Yohan Cabaye and the absence of Loic Remy on occasions, has led to accusations the Newcastle squad have relaxed after guaranteeing top-flight status for a further year.
But Pardew, who still has two matches remaining of his touchline ban, said: “I think the most important thing is the injuries have had a real impact on the team, no doubt about that. You do not have to be a genius to work that out.
“But we do need to get ourselves focused on what is ahead for us. We have had some difficult home games, and just two home games left against Swansea and Cardiff, and I think they are essential for us to give a good feeling to our fans and amongst ourselves as well for the summer. Then we have three tough away games.”
The sale of Cabaye to Paris St Germain in January has increased the need to bring in fresh players before next season, particularly with leading scorer Remy seemingly unlikely to join permanently from Queens Park Rangers.
There have already been discussions aimed at coming up with a plan of action on the transfer front. Pardew said: “This run has underlined that (a lack of options), my players have put in an honest performance. But they have not been good enough either as a squad or as team.”
One change Pardew did make against Manchester United was to bring in Dan Gosling to the starting line-up from the team which also lost 4-0 at Southampton seven days earlier.
It meant Gosling made only the second league start for the club since joining from Everton in 2010 and his first since he was sent off at Norwich City a year later.
“It was a difficult game for me to come in to but I was very much looking forward to it,” said Gosling. “The result doesn't actually reflect what went on, I think we were better than what the scoreline suggests.
FINAL FLOURISH: Newcastle United keeper Rob Elliot lies flat on his back as Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj celebrates his side’s fourth and final goal in Newcastle’s drubbing on Saturday
“We had more of the ball, passed it around, and the first half was tight until they got a decision which went their way. They only had four shots really, our keeper didn't make many saves. I think 4-0 actually flatters them a lot more than it was.”
Having been part of a Newcastle squad which has lost three in a row since defeating Crystal Palace, Gosling insists there should not be too much read in to the poor run.
“The lads are not going out there thinking about our summer holidays,” said Gosling. “Totally not. We are going out and we are trying to win games. We are not conceding goals on purpose.
“We have played three very good sides lately and they are all above us in the league and have bigger squads than we have as well. We are probably second in our mini league, Southampton are above us by two points. We are still chasing them down and if we finish eighth it will be a great season.
“The Britannia is a tough place to go next too. Stoke City turn over teams on a regular basis there. We know it will be difficult. We will be looking to put a good week of training in, rest a few legs which are struggling, hopefully have a decent squad to go there and get a result.”