Wigan Athletic 1 Newcastle United 0: Taylor puts pressure back on struggling Allardyce

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The Independent Online

Beleaguered Sam Allardyce's criticism of his side's frustratingly inept performance will attract almost unanimous agreement but with the pressure increasing on the Newcastle United manager after every faltering display, there is a growing possibility that it is Allardyce himself, and not his players, who will pay the heaviest price for their continuing under-achievement.

Allardyce's position has been under intense scrutiny for weeks, and particularly since the home loss to Liverpool in late November, but this defeat to Ryan Taylor's expertly taken 65th minute goal coming on the back of the dismal home draw with the bottom club, Derby County, means the debate surrounding the manager's future will now reach even more feverish levels on Tyneside, particularly with Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs to come in the next three games.

Certainly if the outcry from the 5,000-strong contingent of visiting supporters including the club owner, Mike Ashley is a barometer of opinion, time is fast running out for Allardyce. "It was a particularly poor performance," he agreed. "We simply didn't cope with Wigan's attitude. And as individuals some of the players just never lived up to their reputations as players. Our problem is shooting ourselves in the foot. No disrespect to Wigan and Derby but we should have been looking to win these games if we are going to do anything with the season.

"I don't blame the fans. If I were them I would be singing what they were singing because it wasn't good enough. They have been watching long enough. The performance has dropped to unacceptable levels and we are having too many off days.

"The only pressure that's coming on us is the pressure we are bringing on ourselves by our performance levels. We should be big and professional enough to handle whatever's thrown our way because we are professional players and managers that have to perform under pressure. We have to accept that pressure and use it as a positive, not shrivel and die. We can't rely on ability alone to win a game of football. It takes much more than that."

Allardyce received sympathy from Steve Bruce, the Wigan manager, who turned down the poisoned chalice that is the Newcastle job a handful of season's ago. Bruce though, was far more concerned with his own side's position that now looks considerably more healthy after just one defeat in five games since he took charge. A game of few openings was decided by Taylor's excellent dead-ball strike that arose after Alan Smith had needlessly fouled Michael Brown on the edge of the Newcastle area. Wigan's greater tenacity and determination had deservedly won the points to cheer an ailing Bruce.

"I have been ill for the last 24 hours and was sick repeatedly," he said. "I was reaching down into the depths, we've all been there. And no, I hadn't even had a drink. But that's cheered me up a bit today. We looked as though we had the stomach for the fight and if we keep playing like that we'll be all right. A couple of weeks ago we thought we were marooned with Derby but we have won a couple of games back to back and have now given ourselves a bit of a chance."

Goal: Taylor (65) 1-0.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble, Kilbane; Valencia, Landzaat, Brown, Taylor (Olembe, 75); Bent, Sibierski (Aghahowa, 71). Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Boyce, Skoko.

Newcastle United (4-1-4-1): Given; Beye, Taylor, Faye, N'Zogbia; Smith; Milner, Emre, Geremi (Martins, 66), Duff (Jose Enrique, 79); Viduka. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Cacapa, Butt.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Booked: Wigan Brown; Newcastle Milner, Emre, Smith, Taylor.

Man of the match: Taylor.

Attendance: 20,304.

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