NEWCASTLE manager Graeme Souness and defender Andy O'Brien have joined forces to present a united front as the Magpies look to turn around a dismal run of results.

Sunday's defeat at home to Manchester United was the third home reverse in eight days and their dip in form has also seen them dumped out of the Carling Cup and drop into mid-table in the Premier League.

Despite a ten-game unbeaten run when he first took charge, the recent downturn has seen Souness and his players receive flak from the fans and forced them to launch a spirited defence of the team.

"We're working hard and we're all trying to pull in that right direction," said O'Brien.

"We need everybody, from supporters to the players, to give it everything.

"We're still in Europe, we've got the FA Cup and we've got the league that we're fighting for.

"Things are just not going our way at the minute. We're not playing badly - I don't think we've played badly particularly this season.

"The manager's a bubbly person and he can't come in and criticise the players, I don't think, because we are giving it our best.

"The results are not going our way and results are all that matter. We'd rather be playing poorly and getting the right results, but that isn't the case and we've just got to stick together and try to come through this period of games that we're going through."

Souness also called on the supporters to back the team through what he has admitted is a difficult time.

"At this football club I've quickly learned that the glass is never half-full, it's always half-empty, and that's something we have to address," said Souness, who has seen his side lose their last four domestic games.

"We have somehow to get the message across to supporters that we are all in this together.

"We can all be disappointed with results but I think, as against Chelsea, we played very well.

"My message to any supporter is to stick together.

"We are a football club that is capable of being the best in the country and beyond. But if it is constantly undermined - and I believe it is in the short time I've been here - then you've got no chance. In nearly 40 years this club has won nothing and it's not just been about being unlucky or not having good players as there have been some great players here.

"I think there has to be something else as well. Without being critical of anyone - and maybe at another time I will go into it - I would ask for togetherness at this time as that's the only answer.

"Look at history. It tells you teams who have continuity are the teams who are successful."

Souness has received criticism for his decision to play three attackers in his starting XI with his most creative player, Laurent Robert, forced to spend most of the time on the bench.

But O'Brien believes it is work-rate rather than systems that win games, and the players must adapt to whatever they're asked to play.

"The principles of the game are the same, it's 11 against 11 and I think systems don't really matter a great deal because I think it's work-rate that you need," said O'Brien, who was asked to play at right-back on Sunday against Manchester United after replacing Stephen Carr early on.

"I'm not saying we're not working hard enough, but maybe we gave a little bit too much space to Manchester United on Sunday.

"Out of the games that we've lost, they are a good team and certainly in the first 20 minutes, they played very well.

"But we've got to stick together. The manager's said that it's when things are not going well that you get tested and we've come to that point now."

With Newcastle in tenth spot it's now a case of playing catch-up in their bid to make a return to Champions League football - their minimum requirement for the season.

O'Brien is taking nothing for granted in the battle to finish in the top four, believing Newcastle have no God-given right to finish above the likes of surprise packages Everton.

He said: "I don't think you can say it's the minimum, you have to deserve to get in there. Obviously, our objective is to get into the top four like the rest of the clubs. "We've not had a good run of late and we've got some chasing to do to get into that fourth spot.

"But to say we should be in there, I think it's unfair to say that because you have to deserve to be in there.

"Everton have had a lot of years where they've scrapped and they've just wanted to stay in the Premier League.

"It's probably fair to say that over the last three years, we've had a good run. People might not say that because we've finished fourth, third and fifth. Had we finished fifth, fourth, third, people would be saying we're going for second this year.

"You can look at it in numerous different ways, like our situation now. We went ten games unbeaten, but now we've lost four out of five. Things change after every game, which we're aware of, so obviously, we want to get that win.

"But in terms of Everton, they're a big club and the table doesn't lie. They're there on merit."

* O'Brien (hamstring) has joined Stephen Carr (knee) in withdrawing from the Republic of Ireland's friendly game against Croatia at Lansdowne Road tomorrow.

* Newcastle's game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on December 4 is a sell-out.

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