Relax for now, Mr. Pardew. With Demba Ba in the side, Newcastle United are simply too good to go down.
But that's the trick, isn't it?
Ba scored twice in the first half, and teenager Gaël Bigirimana added a lovely third as Newcastle beat Wigan 3-0 on Monday night for three vital points in the English Premier League.
The goals gave Ba 10 on the season, joint-best in the league alongside such talents as Manchester United's Robin van Persie and Liverpool's Luis Suarez. The result, meanwhile, lifted Newcastle five points clear of the relegation zone.
More importantly, after a bitterly disappointing four-match losing streak, victory over Wigan should bring with it welcome sensation for the Magpies:
As encouraging as all of the above will be, though, the result still means that in seven short months the Magpies have gone from fifth-place finishers to five points above the drop zone. Such a record won't exactly prompt celebrations at St. James' Park, especially after manager Alan Pardew signed a new eight-year contract in September (via BBC Sport).
It was a theme that played and replayed in the Tyneside night. For every bit of good, Newcastle also experienced a dose of painful reality.
Ba's performance will bring cheer. So will that of Sylvain Marveaux as the puller of midfield strings. But Ba limped off near the end of the match, and the influential Davide Santon did the same before him.
The early word out of Newcastle is that Ba was taken off as a precaution (via PremierLeague.com), but the thought of Papiss Demba Cisse leading the line alone must strike fear into many a Magpie heart.
Ba put Newcastle ahead after just 13 minutes, and yet the decision to award a penalty—and by extension, the automatic red card for Wigan's Maynor Figueroa—felt harsh on the visitors. If nothing else, it became the decisive turning point of the match.
"It was nice to get a break—and I think it was a break," said Pardew (via PremierLeague.com). "I'm not a great lover of that rule with the penalty and the sending-off."
Pardew added: "The referee had a tough decision to make, but I think it was a penalty and obviously it put us in a great position."
Goalkeeper Tim Krul recorded his first clean sheet of the season. Newcastle, too, shut out an opponent for the first time since beating Norwich 1-0 on the same pitch on Sept. 23.
But at the other end, Cisse failed to score again, and on this night, he appeared genuinely incapable of staying onside. The problem took its most alarming form during an 85th-minute break in which he needed only to remain behind the ball itself. Perhaps predictably, he still failed.
And though the score sheet will say Newcastle dominated, Wigan produced stretches of superiority, especially early in the second half after Santon's departure.
Said Wigan manager Roberto Martinez (via PremierLeague.com):
It became a very, very difficult game in 10 minutes, giving up a two-goal cushion and a man down. But you will get adversity in football and I'm proud of our reaction in the second half. We never gave up or felt sorry for ourselves.
As The Telegraph's Jason Mellor writes, Newcastle's regression to the pack this season has been predictable, even "formulaic." Pardew took a thrifty approach in the transfer market over summer. Coupled with key injuries to Yohan Cabaye and Steven Taylor and the added obligation of Europa League football, an already stretched squad has looked undermanned.
Meanwhile, reports have indicated that Pardew is feeling the beginnings of pressure, though admittedly he has denied all of it (via Belfast Telegraph). And despite the final scoreline and the positive result, Newcastle remain outside the top half of the table as the halfway point of the season approaches.
Most worrisome, Ba has been linked repeatedly with a move away from the club amid talk of stalled contract negotiations (via The Guardian).
But on a night that saw Newcastle grab three much-needed points on three goals without reply, those concerns must remain secondary. For now, Pardew and his men must only be feeling relief.
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