Newcastle play their final home game of the campaign tomorrow with Cardiff City providing the opposition.
Back in January the very same fixture gave Bluebirds boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a winning start to his managerial career in England resulting in yet another early cup exit.
How the Norwegian could do with another win on Tyneside. With all three teams above them playing away from home this weekend, a win for Cardiff could see them lifted out of the relegation zone should all results go their way. Norwich visit Chelsea on Sunday afternoon while the Mackems play at Manchester United and Fulham visit Stoke tomorrow. Of course it could also go wrong for Solskjaer and they could be relegated if Sunderland win at Old Trafford and they fail to win at St James’ Park.
They shouldn’t be scared of us. Our form since Christmas has been dire and we need to score three goals to ensure that we don’t break another unwanted record of lowest home goals recorded by us in the Premier League era. At the moment we’ve scored 19 goals with the previous lowest being 22 (in 1997/98 and 2006/07). Even in our relegation season we managed to hit the back of the net 24 times at home.
Results, the way we’ve played and a whole host of other stuff have combined to heap the pressure on Alan Pardew who has been subject to chanting from travelling fans in each of the last two away games and will more than likely face more barracking tomorrow with a planned protest organised by some fans proposing a mass walkout on the 60-minute mark, although it has to be said that the particular motion is not entirely against Pardew.
Whatever you make of it or whether you think Pardew should be sacked or not, it’s clear that he has lost the backing of the fans and seems to have lost the focus of the players. Personally I have doubts that we’ll be able to recruit anyone better under our current ownership, but with support at an all-time low for Pardew perhaps a change is for the best.
We need one point from our two remaining games to achieve the “minimum target” the club keep banging on about, which is a top ten finish. As much as it pains me to say it, that may well be enough for Pardew to keep his job as theoretically he’s done what was expected of him, just. It could and should have been far more comfortable though and no way should we be even contemplating finishing 11th given the points we amassed in the first half of the season. Anyway, enough waffle, on to the game itself.
Hatem Ben Arfa looks unlikely to feature and seems to have been banished to the reserves fro his outburst in the press. In fairness it wasn’t an outburst, he was just saying it how it is but seemingly that is not allowed at St James’ Park.
Luuk de Jong could feature after recovering from the injury picked up against Swansea but Davide Santon and Papiss Cisse will both miss the game.
Juan Cala is suspended after his sending off against Sunderland last weekend. Anthony Taylor is doubtful while Mark Hudson looks set to miss out. Craig Noone is unlikely to return until next weekend.
The most recent meetings have favoured United with two games in the Championship and the league match in Cardiff earlier on in the season all seeing Newcastle record wins. The only blip on that is the previously mentioned FA Cup 3rd Round tie back in January.
However this game generally tends to favour the home side looking at the home and away stats. On Tyneside United have won 18 of 25 games played between the two sides. Cardiff have won just four with the spoils being shared three times. In Wales Cardiff have won 12 of 25 games, with United winning four times and draws being recorded a further nine times.
That means that out of the 50 matches overall, United have won 22 times, Cardiff 16 times with 12 draws making up the numbers.
Stats and facts…
Newcastle have won their last seven league games against Cardiff; a run that goes back to 1981.
If the Premier League season had started on December 27, Newcastle would be bottom of the table.
Cardiff have conceded 24 goals in the final 15 minutes of games this season – more than any other Premier League side.
Steven Caulker is one of only two outfield players to play every minute of every game this season. The other is Crystal Palace’s Mile Jedinak.
Newcastle have only scored once when Loic Remy hasn’t been in the side.
United have failed to score in 13 of the last 18 games.
A win is what we need more than anything right now. Given the form we’re in we won’t be playing fluidly or anything like that and it’s likely to be a scrappy game which will probably suit Cardiff who need to fight tooth and nail for their own cause.
The rot must stop and with a daunting away trip to Liverpool for our final game of the season following this, a defeat would likely see us sign on what was a promising campaign at one stage with a horrific run of eight defeats on the bounce.
That is not something worth contemplating but I get the feeling that whatever the result tomorrow, even an unlikely impressive win won’t be enough for Alan Pardew.
Howay the lads!
Date: Saturday, 3rd May, 2014
Venue: St James’ Park