So was Mike Ashley kidding or not? Having promised, with tongue in cheek he claimed, that defeat at the Britannia Stadium would spell the end for manager Alan Pardew, the owner of Newcastle United must now decide whether he can still afford to make jokes.
After the third defeat of a winless start to the Premier League season, Newcastle are still keeping company with Burnley at the bottom of the table, level on points with the promoted side and in front of them only by virtue of having scored more goals.
A defiant Pardew insisted he would fight on after the match but admitted: “I think I will have a serious chat with Mike [Ashley] before Saturday because he doesn’t like losing and neither do I.”
Newcastle had moments of brightness on a wet night in the Potteries but after going behind to Peter Crouch’s header after 15 minutes, they rarely looked capable of overturning the deficit and might easily have conceded more goals against a Stoke side whose own start, save for one extraordinary result at the Etihad Stadium, had been disappointing.
Newcastle, fielding an unchanged line-up with Emmanuel Rivière again used as the lone striker, began at a decent tempo and Stoke, beaten in their opening two home games, looked wary of making early mistakes, with Charlie Adam dropping back to assist Glenn Whelan and Steven Nzonzi in protecting the back four.
Rivière had a sight of goal, although he was cramped for space by his own team-mate, Jack Colback, when Rémy Cabella fed him the ball on the right and with little backlift, scooped his shot over the bar. But Mark Hughes had his side set up for the counter attack and Stoke’s response brought them the lead after 15 minutes.
On the left, Victor Moses exchanged passes with Adam, then cut inside Daryl Janmaat, taking the ball onto his right foot and delivering a cross for Peter Crouch to tower over Fabricio Coloccini and head past goalkeeper Tim Krul. An eerily long roll of thunder accompanied the heavy rain as Newcastle re-grouped, but the storm clouds in the air matched the mood of the away end which, once again was full of anti-Pardew and anti-Ashley banners. And referee Craig Pawson must have felt for them, failing to blatent award a penalty against Yoan Gouffran for bringing down Moses as Stoke sought to strike while their opponents wobbled. Had it been given and converted, it would have been game over.
Newcastle launch some threatening attacks and before half-time both full-backs – Janmaat and Paul Dummett – had drawn good saves from Asmir Begovic. Stoke had lost Mame Diouf to injury soon after their penalty appeals were rejected, but they continued to pose a serious threat when they attacked. Newcastle’s defence was stretched but, to their credit, were good enough to prevent further damage before half-time. Mike Williamson did just enough to keep Marc Muniesa’s cross from reaching the head of Nzonzi, Dummett made an outstanding block to repel substitute Marko Arnautovic and Crouch’s failure to take one of a couple of chances created by surging runs from Moses, owed a good deal to Coloccini pressure.
Beleagured Pardew made his first change at the break bringing on Papiss Cissé in a straight swap for the isolated Riviere.
At the start of the second half, Williamson inadvertently created danger from a Muniesa cross as his clearing header went straight to Arnautovic. The Austrian struck the ball beautifully, straight and true, beating Krul all ends up. It looked a certain goal but to Newcastle and Pardew’s relief, the ball hit the post and rebounded to safety.
Moses continued to be the biggest threat, working a way through with Crouch’s help and was cursing himself for not converting when a defensive clearance left him with only Krul to beat, although he had almost no time to get his shot away. With Newcastle pushing forward in search of an equaliser, when Moses sent Arnautovic clear but this time his shot drifted harmlessly wide. In the last 10 minutes, Newcastle nearly did pull a point out of the bag, but Colback’s effort on the end of substitute Gabriel Obertan cross hit the woodwork. The end for Alan Pardew? Over to you, Mr Ashley.Reuse content