Club Focus – Newcastle – Little festive cheer for Magpies fans

Newcastle United ended what has on the whole been a successful 2010 with a deserved 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. It was the team’s second consecutive loss over the festive period, with new manager Alan Pardew quickly brought back to reality after a winning start to his tenure. With the Magpies slipping into the bottom half of the table on Tuesday the gap between themselves and the relegation zone has become much closer than it was a fortnight ago. Newcastle fans will be pleased to see the back of a tumultuous December which has seen the loss of the popular Chris Hughton and only one win all month.

Following hot on the back of a 3-1 defeat at home to Manchester City tiredness was always going to be an important issue going into a game against one of the league’s most potent attacking forces. Newcastle were able to keep things tight for almost an hour but were eventually undone by Spurs’ Aaron Lennon. Using five players across the midfield the away side were able to stiffen their opponents fairly successfully but never looked likely to score a crucial opening goal. When the defensive wall was breached goalkeeper Tim Krul was in fine form to keep Tottenham at bay. It was important for Krul to have a good game following his first bad mistake since taking over from Steve Harper early on against Manchester City.

However once they were forced to chase the game after going behind Newcastle rarely looked like threatening the Tottenham goal, even with the hosts being reduced to 10 men. After the game Pardew bemoaned his side’s lack of quality in the final third of the pitch. Striker Andy Carroll was given limited service and he was generally forced to scrap off a succession of hopeful long balls. It also highlighted a lack of depth to the Magpies’ squad with key players Jose Enrique and Kevin Nolan both missing the game. With Enrique absent Newcastle were without a recognised left back with the versatile James Perch making a rare appearance in his place. The much criticised Perch coped with Lennon quite well but will disappointed at being caught out for the first goal. Pardew knows that he needs another left back to provide some competition for Enrique.

In Newcastle’s Boxing Day encounter with Manchester City they were guilty of gift wrapping the visitors the first two goals of the game in the opening five minutes. From then on they matched their opponents for much of the game but were out of luck in front of goal. In other news defender Steven Taylor has signed a new deal with the club that should keep him on Tyneside for most of his career. Taylor signed a five and a half year deal the day after the City game to bring an end to speculation he was set to leave in either January or the summer. The 24 year old has been identified by Pardew as one of the key players in his Newcastle squad.

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