A British Sunday newspaper joined the ranks of publications banned from St James’ Park for suggesting that would be the case had Paul Lambert’s side emerged with a victory they looked more than capable off until Ashley Westwood limped off with a dead leg with an hour gone.
The departure of the influential midfielder allowed Newcastle exert a greater control in the final 30 minutes, culminating in Loic Remy’s winning goal well into stoppage time — the first occasion Pardew’s side have found the net for seven and a half hours. If the celebrations and outpouring of relief all around St James’ Park are anything to go by, it was well worth the wait.
Remy’s goal, his 12th of the season on his return from a three-match suspension, was also redemption for Newcastle’s top scorer, who moments earlier had spurned a far easier chance to break the deadlock, firing against the post with the goal at his mercy after sub Luuk de Jong dispossessed the otherwise faultless Ron Vlaar in the Aston Villa area.
That chance went begging, and seemingly with it Newcastle’s hopes of posting a first home win since St Stephen’s Day. Newcastle supporters should have known better, and they were soon reflecting on a clinical strike from the Frenchman from 10 yards, after more good work from de Jong, who proved highly effective off the bench in the final 20 minutes.
The decisive late intervention settled a tense affair that looked to have stalemate written all over it until Pardew was able to allow himself a wry smile as mayhem ensued in time added on.
“A couple of reports were aimed at putting me under pressure,” the Newcastle manager reflected on the supposed Villa ultimatum, in the wake of only a second victory in 10 games. He added: “This job’s hard enough without those kind of articles putting me under pressure, so I allowed myself to smile about that as we celebrated.”
After stemming a run of five consecutive defeats at St James’ Park, Pardew admitted the result far outweighed the manner in which it was achieved.
“Technically, it wasn’t a great game,” he added. “We were beginning to wonder if it was going to be our day, but what got us there was 10 out of 10 for effort for the cause, and it was a fabulous goal in those circumstances. Loic was probably the only player on the pitch who would have scored in that situation.”
Remy dedicated the goal to John Carver, Newcastle’s assistant manager, who recently lost his father.
“It was a nice touch,” added Pardew, conceding the latest addition to the on-loan QPR forward’s goal collection this season will make it that bit more difficult to broker a permanent deal in the summer. “I think it’s pretty obvious that’s the case,” he added.
“He’s going to be hot property, with a lot of press tomorrow. Smiling, he added: “I’m going to leave him out of the next game.”
In fairness to the hosts, the goal had been coming. Villa faded from the contest after Westwood’s enforced withdrawal. Leandro Bacuna escaped with a handball in his attempts to clear from Fabricio Coloccini, the returning Newcastle skipper who was immense, after being pressed back into service ahead of schedule following a lengthy injury lay-off.
Villa paid for failing to make their first-half dominance pay. Christian Benteke had an afternoon to forget, Gabriel Agbonlahor posing the biggest threat as he twice came close to breaking the deadlock. Andreas Weimann was inches from connecting with Karim El Ahmadi cross shot in front of an open goal, while late on, only a timely intervention for Mike Williamson prevented Benteke’s pass putting Agbonlahor clean through.
“We deserved at least a point,” Lambert, the Villa manager, said. “Neither team deserved to win the game but we let our guard down with 30 seconds left and it cost us. Losing Westwood was a pity, because he’s a terrific footballer and I thought he was the best player on the pitch.”
NEWCASTLE (4-4-2): Krul 7; Debuchy 6, Coloccini 8, Williamson 8, Dummett 7; Sissoko 6, Anita 6, Tiote 7 (Gosling 88, 5), Gouffran 6; Cisse 5 (de Jong 72, 6), Remy 8.
ASTON VILLA (4-3-1-2): Guzan 7; Bacuna 7, Baker 7, Vlaar 7, Bertrand 7 (Bennett 73, 6); El Ahmadi 7, Westwood 6 (Sylla 61, 6), Delph 8; Agbonlahor 7; Benteke 5, Weimann 5.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.