Club Focus – Newcastle – Absentees rued in Villa defeat

A patched-up Newcastle side could have few complaints about leaving Villa Park pointless and goalless on Sunday. Due to a number of injuries and suspensions manager Alan Pardew was forced into choosing a team a long way from his strongest starting XI. With very few teams in the bottom half of the table winning at the weekend there has been little lost with the Magpies still occupying ninth position.

Before the game Newcastle’s depleted resources took a further blow when striker Shola Ameobi was ruled out with a knee injury. As a result he joined key players Cheik Tiote, Kevin Nolan and Leon Best on the sidelines. The manager’s response was to choose an experimental side to compete against an Aston Villa team in greater need of the three points. Defender Fabricio Coloccini was moved forward into midfield with Steven Taylor taking his place at the back. The Argentine’s cultured playing style made him an ideal candidate for the role but he struggled to make much of an impression in the centre of the park. Youngster Nile Ranger was another untested performer given a chance as he made his first league start of the season. The 19-year-old had few clear cut chances to score although at times he chose the wrong option when in good positions. With a substitutes’ bench largely made up of inexperienced youngsters Pardew has few alternatives to deploy to change the flow of the game.

Captain for the day Joey Barton did not enjoy his best game of the season and often cut a frustrated figure. Barton had caused controversy in the build up to the weekend’s game with comments regarding the England football team, his Newcastle future and former team-mate Ousmane Dabo. He had an ideal chance to create some positive headlines early on but fluffed a headed chance at the back post. He seemed to spend most of the game haranguing referee Stuart Attwell despite the game being short of many controversial incidents. Barton was also guilty of giving away a free-kick from which Villa scored the only goal of the game.

Alan Pardew cited the loss of his key players for the biggest reason behind his team’s defeat. The manager wants his side to finish the season in a more positive fashion and mathematically secure safety as soon as possible. “I think everybody in the division is the same. You just want to get to them 41, 42 points and you feel a bit more comfortable,” Pardew said.“We’ve got plenty of good players and plenty of games left to make sure we do that. We want to finish stronger than that.” There were few positives to take from this defeat which showed the lack of strength in depth currently available at the club.

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