Amid reports of disharmony, strife and cliques, Newcastle United's players, management and supporters are all agreed on one thing: they must win at Queen's Park Rangers next Sunday to ease fears of relegation. Ease, but not banish them even then, as the final fixture is at home to an Arsenal side who will almost certainly still be playing for third or fourth place.
The air of satisfaction in some quarters over Saturday's goalless draw at West Ham would have been more understandable had Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa not pulled off stunning late away victories. Once those results were digested, Newcastle's was a good point only in the sense that a fifth defeat in seven games would have been worse, especially coming on top of demoralising home defeats by Sunderland and Liverpool that have made their goal difference the worst of all the threatened teams.
Positivity is required now and apart from admitting that he dare not watch Wigan's game in hand at home to Swansea tomorrow, the Newcastle manager Alan Pardew led the way. "It's not just between us and Wigan," he said. "There are a lot of teams in the mix now. The most important thing for us is to win our next game and see where that leads us. The point could be absolutely crucial. But we've got to make it crucial now. We've got to get three at QPR – that will probably be the key."
Jonas Gutierrez, who was unexpectedly solid as a holding midfielder alongside Cheick Tioté, added: "I think we showed that was a performance of a united, committed team. Everybody could see we were fighting for each other. It has been a difficult few weeks, and we haven't been solid or compact – but today we were. If we'd played more games like this in recent weeks I don't think we'd be talking about a relegation battle." That is precisely the complaint of supporters and many of the region's journalists.
Coming after last season's fifth place, for which Pardew was voted manager of the season by his peers, the current campaign has been all the more disappointing. He blames injuries – Hatem Ben Arfa was forced off on Saturday and his replacement Shola Ameobi suffered an early knock – as well as the sort of bad luck that for struggling teams rarely evens itself out. Newcastle felt they had another example when Papiss Cissé's shot was possibly just over the line before Winston Reid cleared it. Against that, they survived two strong penalty appeals in the second half, when Rob Elliot and the returning Fabricio Coloccini had to be at their best.
Substitutions: West Ham United Collison 6 (Vaz Te, 58), M Taylor (Demel, 81), J Cole (Jarvis, 84). Newcastle United Shola Ameobi 6 (Ben Arfa, 66), Gosling (Gouffran, 76).
Booked: West Ham O'Brien. Newcastle Tioté.
Man of the match Elliot.
Match rating 5/10.
Possession: West Ham 51%. Newcastle 49%.
Attempts on target: West Ham 3. Newcastle 5.
Referee P Dowd (Staffs).
Attendance 34,962.Reuse content