Newcastle United 1 Fulham 0 match report: Hatem Ben Arfa strike gives Alan Pardew a lift
A late winner brings relief for Newcastle, as Yohan Cabaye gets a mixed reception on his comeback
It is getting on for five months since Papiss Cissé struck a winning goal against Fulham, deep into injury-time. Back then, the relief for Alan Pardew was so great that he ran into the welcoming arms of delirious supporters. He was eventually rescued by a club steward, bedraggled but triumphant. The win was significant because it was an attempt to stem the growing spectre of relegation.
Yesterday, the 93rd minute was swapped for the 86th minute. The 32nd game of the season was swapped for the third. The concerns of Newcastle supporters have already begun to swamp the club. Their recruitment policy has become a joke. The manager, the chief scout and the director of football all compete for air time with the owner as to who should arrive.
In the 86th minute, Hatem Ben Arfa cut inside the Fulham pairing of John Arne Riise and Alex Kacaniklic and smashed a left foot shot into the empty side of David Stockdale's goal. Those memorable scenes from April were not repeated, but goals against Fulham to guarantee a one-nil victory do not usually meet such a reaction.
This time, Pardew turned and raised a fist towards the main stand at St James' Park. It was in the direction of the Newcastle directors' box, that these days holds no Newcastle directors. Being defiant is what Pardew will cling to. It could prove to be a massive goal or it may just bring a stay of execution.
What happens next at Newcastle is generally a mystery. Yohan Cabaye (right), the former Newcastle vice captain who refused to play against Manchester City on the first day of the season because the longed-for bid from another club had finally arrived.
He has been unhappy at the club for a long time, annoyed that they did not invest in the summer of 2012, after they had finished fifth. He feels the club has gone backwards and only a loan signing has arrived so far during the transfer window.
They are the same concerns of the supporters, but he was jeered when he came onto the field in the 66th minute, at which point nothing of significance in the game had taken place. There were cheers as well, and the song which urges Mike Ashley not to sell Cabaye was sung by two different parts of the ground.
There is a lack of direction throughout the club. In the 74th minute, Loic Remy, the signing spotted by the Newcastle chief scout Graham Carr, and who Joe Kinnear now claims he pushed through the loan deal for this summer, came on. Remy turned Newcastle down in January because Queens Park Rangers offered more money. His reception was rapturous.
At that point, in what was yet another hour of need, Pardew had a front six of Carr's signings – Cissé and Remy upfront, Yoan Gouffran on the left, Moussa Sissoko and Cabaye in the middle and Ben Arfa on the right.
Newcastle suddenly had direction and drive. Ben Arfa crossed from the left for Cissé to head against the crossbar in the 78th minute. Two minutes later he teed up Gouffran, who missed a glaring chance from close range, for the second week running. In the 86th minute he grabbed the winner himself.
"I was pulling my hair out with Hatem today," admitted Pardew. "He was making bad selections with his passes. He was not doing what we wanted him to do in the wide area.
Then the goal was fantastic. That is Hatem. He makes us slightly disfunctional at times but he can win us the game at any level. It was an important goal, I thought we were terrific in the second half. We put a bit pressure on them."
Pardew also agreed with the criticism of Cabaye from Newcastle's supporters. "The fans called it right today," he added. "Half were saying we're not sure about what you've done, the other half were pleased to see him.
"I think that was good and fair. To be fair to Yohan, because he is so focused on his game he put it all to one side and played a normal game. That takes some doing. Hats off to him.
"I won't know until 11 o'clock if he is going. We've told his agent, play the game. We have to replace him if he goes, we can't afford to replace him before he goes. That bid needs to come in early, if not it won't happen. I think it won't happen but you can never tell with this football club."
Fulham were a largely forgotten sub-plot, though there was a rare bite from Martin Jol. "They scored one goal and they were over the moon and they thought they'd played great," he said. "We should have got at least a point."
Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon; Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Anita (Cabaye, 66), Marveaux (Remy, 74); Ameobi (Gouffran, 66), Cissé.
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Stockdale; Riether (Briggs, 73), Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Sidwell (Rodallega, 89), Parker; Ruiz, Berbatov, Kacaniklic; Bent (Taarabt, 82).
Referee: Chris Foy.
Man of the match: Ben Arfa (Newcastle)
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