ALAN Pardew last night claimed Newcastle's hard-fought 0-0 draw with Manchester United had effectively guaranteed the club's survival in the Premier League.
After avoiding defeat to Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool at St James' Park this season, the Magpies completed a 'Big Four' clean sweep as the current league leaders failed to make a breakthrough.
The draw elevated Newcastle to ninth position, and left them seven points clear of the relegation zone with just five games remaining. As a result, Pardew claims their top-flight status is all but guaranteed.
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“Getting to 40 points looks good,” said the Magpies manager. “And with our goal difference, you would like to think that's enough. But with five games remaining, we still have to push on and try to finish in the top ten.
“We can be very proud of that result, but we go to Blackpool on Saturday with a big chance to break into the top eight, and we have to try to do that. We owe it to the rest of the league to repeat what we've just done against Manchester United in all five of the games we have left.”
After a match of few clear-cut chances, Pardew was quick to praise referee Lee Probert, who turned down Manchester United's stoppage-time appeals for a penalty.
Javier Hernandez tumbled under minimal contact from full-back Danny Simpson, but rather than pointing to the spot, Probert, who also turned away a penalty appeal at the other end involving Peter Lovenkrands, booked the Mexican striker.
“To be honest, my heart sank because I thought the referee would give it,” said Pardew. “I have to applaud him for the decision he made because it was the correct one.
“Danny has stuck his leg out, but just retrieved it back in. The referee got the decision right and we got a deserved draw.
“At the time though, I thought Peter's was a definite penalty because I didn't think he would go down in that situation unless he had been clipped.”
Simpson also felt Probert had made the correct call, although like his manager, the Manchester-born full-back momentarily feared the worst.
“Wazza (Wayne Rooney) joked before the game because he knows I'm a Manchester United fan,” said Simpson. “He said, 'Give us a penalty'. Thankfully, the referee made the right decision. I did not feel any contact. I'll have to look at it again but my heart was in my mouth for a while.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sir Alex Ferguson saw things rather differently, claiming Simpson had made definite contact with Hernandez as he twisted in the box.
“It was a clear penalty, and it's an insult because he's (Probert) booked him,” said the Manchester United boss. “I thought the referee had an excellent game, but he's let himself down by booking him there. There was definite contact.
“The way Newcastle have played, they probably feel they deserved a point. But by the end of the game, we were more or less in control.
“In the first 20 minutes, Newcastle played very well, but we improved as the game went on and our passing was very good in the second half.
“At this stage of the season, the most important thing is that we're in a better position than we were before the weekend because there's one less game remaining.”