Spring was in the air here yesterday but for Alan Pardew, a lingering chill remains. The six days since his Newcastle side’s home derby humiliation by Sunderland must have felt like six weeks and yesterday they were not quite able to earn the restorative victory they craved. Instead, despite earning a decent point, the Tynesiders actually ended the day dropping two places to 16th – with Sunderland one of the teams climbing above them.
Relegation is only a faint possibility – they have six points more than Wigan, who have a game in hand – but Newcastle must wait a little longer to confirm survival. “You need to make sure you secure the points and don’t rely on other people not getting them,” said Pardew, who clearly cannot wait for this season to end. “We’ve got good players and if we get them all fit, I would expect us to challenge for the top 10 this year. But we’ve got to stay in the division.”
Yesterday was all about providing a response. Malcolm Macdonald, the former United striker, had summed up the mood after last Sunday’s derby debacle by labelling Newcastle’s season as a “disaster”; a harsh verdict but this is a club that, true to its colours, does not do shades of grey.
Something similar could be said of this contest with Newcastle dominant in the first half, Albion on top in the second, and the pity for Pardew was his players failed to capitalise on their initial superiority. “The first half we really should have put that game to bed. We had two or three good chances at 1-0 and were coping really well with West Brom,” he said.
Newcastle have won just once on their Premier League travels this term but took the lead after eight minutes through Yoan Gouffran. Yohan Cabaye played a reverse pass into Papiss Cisse, running into space on the left of the box, and the striker turned back towards goal and lofted the ball toward the six-yard box where Gouffran got in front of Jonas Olsson and flicked the ball over Ben Foster.
The first half ended on a note of controversy when James Perch tackled Billy Jones just inside the Newcastle box. Referee Mike Jones blew for an infringement but, after a lengthy consultation with his assistant, awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area, not a penalty. “The challenge was clearly inside the box,” said Clarke.
Clarke sent on Shane Long in place of Yacob at half-time and moments later the Irishman almost scored on the follow-up after Rob Elliot spilled Marc-Antoine Fortune’s shot. Lukaku then headed against the crossbar from Chris Brunt’s corner and eventually the equaliser arrived. It came from right-back Jones, the first Englishman to score for Albion this season.
It followed some neat work by Fortune and James Morrison, who worked the ball into Lukaku with his back to goal in the box. With the Belgian struggling to hold off Steven Taylor, Jones stepped in and, despite an errant first touch, slid the ball home from eight yards. Elliot then tipped over Morrison’s header to ensure Newcastle at least earned a draw. “My overall feeling is we’ve shown exactly what we needed to today without actually getting the three points” was Pardew’s verdict, but a victory would have been so much better.
West Bromwich (4-4-2): Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Popov; Dorrans, Morrison, Yacob (Long 46), Brunt; Fortune (Rosenberg 90), Lukaku (Thomas 90).
Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Elliot; Debuchy, Taylor, Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara (Ben Arfa 77); Perch, Cabaye (Gosling 90); Gouffran (Ameobi 69), Sissoko, Gutierrez; Cisse.
Referee: Mike Jones
Man of the match: Cabaye (Newcastle)
Match rating: 6/10