Newcastle made to pay for lack of intensity at Baggies

Posted by Lee Ryder

The party season came to an abrupt end for Newcastle United on New Year's Day at the Hawthorns.

Alan Pardew's team failed to step up to the plate on a day when relegation-threatened West Brom were surely there for the taking, instead losing 1-0.

Much has been made about whether Newcastle can keep pace with the chasing pack in the running for European places. However, days like this suggest Newcastle won't be able to keep up.

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For some reason they stepped off West Brom and seemed overcautious on a day when the home side looked to have blown the chance of victory themselves.

Christmas may be behind us, but both Tim Krul and Mathieu Debuchy offered some belated festive gifts to boost West Brom's chances. Debuchy's two-footed lunge on Claudio Yacob got the ball rolling when he was sent off with around 30 minutes left.

Not to be outdone, Krul managed to rush out and upend Matej Vyrdra to hand West Brom a penalty. And having missed a hatful of chances to win the game, Saido Berahino wasn't about to turn down the chance from the spot to take three crucial points.

For Newcastle it seemed inevitable. They didn't offer much in this one if the truth is told. Pardew must now get his thinking cap on for the weeks ahead.

Against Arsenal, many fans accepted a defeat against a team that are flying high near the top of the table. But surely, no matter what the ambition is at Newcastle this season, West Brom are a side that the Magpies should be seeing off, and with a bit to spare.

Newcastle defender Mathieu Debuchy sees red at West Brom.GettyImagesNewcastle defender Mathieu Debuchy sees red at West Brom.

Sadly, Newcastle went down without a fight, though, and if injuries have been kind to the Toon, then that luck seemed to run out at West Brom. Fabricio Coloccini could be out for six weeks and Debuchy's red card means it's a three-game ban for the Frenchman, who had been enjoying a great season.

The response could come in the FA Cup third round against Cardiff City on Saturday and Newcastle fans are in need of some New Year's cheer.

It was at the Hawthorns in 2012 that Pardew's team had turned in such a great display in a 3-1 win in the sunshine on a day when attacking football felt like it has never been so good for the Magpies. That day, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse sliced through the Baggies at will.

Fast forward to 2014: Ben Arfa hardly got a touch on a heavy pitch, Cabaye struggled to get into the game at times and Cisse didn't even leave the bench.

Instead, a sterile looking attack including Shola Ameobi and Loic Remy didn't quite grasp the occasion. They didn't get much service but they also looked leggy and hardly threatened a West Brom team that are hardly oozing confidence right now.

Afterward, Pardew said his team felt tired and were feeling the pace of the festive period. And while that was a bitter pill to swallow for the 2,600 travelling fans, maybe a refresh is needed against Cardiff on Saturday; Cisse, Ben Arfa and Vurnon Anita will be gagging for starts, and Steven Taylor must be desperate for a slice of action.

But overall an improvement and a swift return to the type of displays that saw Stoke leak five goals and Crystal Palace concede three goals less than a couple of weeks ago will be vital.

Newcastle certainly have the talent in abundance, but consistency remains their biggest obstacle. For one reason or another they only seem to be able to raise their game when the mood takes them.

Unfortunately, at West Brom they didn't seem to fancy the occasion, and against a poor Baggies team they left with nothing to show for their efforts.

The year 2014 could still promise to be a good one for the Toon Army, but only when the XI in Newcastle shirts manage to match the quality of the fans that back them up and down the land.

Then again, there's nothing like a good cup run to galvanise Tyneside punters. Saturday can't come quick enough.

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