Yohan Cabaye backs Alan Pardew but mood has turned ugly at Newcastle
Newcastle United 1 Reading 2
A one club city had not long since digested a potentially disastrous result before a defence came, and it was significant. Yohan Cabaye is the Newcastle captain-in-waiting.
Fabricio Coloccini walked off the St James's Park pitch on Saturday slowly and deliberately, and yet without a fanfare. He might never be back on the field he has graced for four-and-a-half years. And he knew it. He also knew the situation of the troublesome football club he moved to in 2008. Newcastle had lost. Relegation is once more a possibility. From the potential glamour of the Champions League has come the spectre of the Championship, inside eight months.
Only in Newcastle.
As Coloccini slowly left the field, to a reassuringly warm reception from those fans around the tunnel, a city rocked. Newcastle could get relegated, again, for the second time in four years.
That fact dawned on Tyneside on Saturday evening.
It did when Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, substituted Sylvain Marveaux in the 65th minute. There were jeers. They were more forcible in the 75th minute, when Cabaye was taken off. Then the unrest saw fans rise to their feet to vent their anger. It had never been thus, not with Pardew.
He looked more weary than anything else afterwards. Mike Ashley, the club's controversial owner, was at the game on Saturday. He had left his seat before the finish. By then Newcastle had lost to Reading at home for the first time.
Cabaye, however, loyally defended his manager. "The fans were very angry but they did not realise I needed to come off," he said. "They should not blame the manager for that. It was my decision. I was also feeling tired. You cannot expect a player to be 100 per cent in my situation. I was not fit enough to finish the game. That was why I came off.
"It is unfair to blame the manager when it was me who made the decision. I was afraid about my groin. I have come back from surgery and did not want to get pain again. I am not worried now because I came off. I think I will be all right.
"I asked to come off because my groin became tight. I didn't want to take any risks on my first start for so long. I have come back much earlier than was planned. The pitch was very heavy. I think it was the right decision for me.
"When I came off it did not occur to me that we would lose the game. In this league you can't afford to relax for one moment. It only takes a few seconds to win a game. Reading turned it around.
"What happened today we couldn't foresee and we are all bitterly disappointed. In the first half I thought we played well, had many chances to score and win the game. In the second half we lacked some energy to push on and score that vital second goal.
"The confidence is a lot lower to what it was when I was last in it. There is a difference. It is low. That means we need to stick together to keep our heads up because we are in a bad position now. We must stay calm because there are a lot of games still to play. We must work hard and fight every week to get the points we need to stay in the Premier League. That is what is most important."
Pardew, who is in by far the most difficult period of his time as Newcastle manager, said: "I'm feeling disappointed, for sure. You don't want the stadium booing your substitutions as the manager but that's what I have to accept. I will accept it and I'll be fine when I go back to work.
"I have a good staff and good players, but they need a boost, there's no doubt about that. A win today would have been different for them, but we've lost to a team who are below us and that has put us under pressure and put me under pressure. I will have to do what I do and I'll have to do it well. I have to be strong and make sure my players are strong."
That, suddenly, is not so difficult for Brian McDermott, the coach Pardew gave his start in the game. Adam le Fondre, who scored twice from the substitutes' bench to cancel out Cabaye's excellent first-half free-kick, said: "I'm absolutely buzzing with what has happened to me personally but really much more important is what happened to the team. It was a great result for us and we showed fantastic character as a team. There was real strength and resilience in the way we came back. It's a big win for us against one of the teams who are around us."
Which would explain Tyneside's implosion.
Scorers: Newcastle Cabaye 35. Reading Le Fondre 71, 77.
Substitutes: Newcastle Perch 6 (Marveaux, 65), Bigirimana 4 (Cabaye, 74), Obertan (Anita, 80). Reading Akpan 5 (McCleary, 64), Le Fondre 8 (Guthrie, 70). Booked: Newcastle Williamson, Debuchy. Reading Kelly, Kébé, Guthrie.
Man of the match Le Fondre. Match rating 5/10.
Possession: Newcastle 55% Reading 45%.
Attempts on target: Newcastle 10 Reading 2.
Referee A Marriner (West Midlands). Att 49,411.
Contract conundrum: Since Pardew signed
Newcastle's results since announcing Alan Pardew and his coaches had signed an eight-year contract on 27 September:
* Results in all competitions: P24 W5 D6 L13
* Win percentage since Pardew's new contract stands at 21 per cent
* Conceded 42 goals, scoring 29 in return
* Lost 12 out of past 16 games
* Won one out of past 10 matches
Too good to go down?
Last time Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League in 2008-09, they had 23 points from 23 matches, two more than they have at the same stage this season.
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