Pardew feeling the pressure again

Posted by Lee Ryder

For Newcastle United and their manager Alan Pardew, this week has been all about getting back on the horse. Having left three of his regular starters out against Cardiff City last weekend and fielding a back five who aren't used to playing with each other, Pardew paid the ultimate price in a competition the fans love to talk about most.

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And there's been plenty talking this week -- sadly on the negative front. The Magpies were dumped out of the FA Cup last weekend against Cardiff City with 2-1 defeat going down like a lead balloon on Tyneside. For Pardew, though, he finds himself in a place that isn't so unfamiliar.

He's been lying low this week in some senses, and unlike years gone by, he hasn't used any of the media at his disposal to deliver a message of defiance -- not even the club's own website. That's not to say he's losing any of his fighting capabilities. Right now, he has to fight.

He needs a result against Manchester City. Sunday will be a day when the result will be more important than the performance against the moneybags Manchester side. Now Tyneside expects a response.

Pardew was hammered in the media after losing to Cardiff and kissing goodbye the last chance of silverware, but the pressure monitors aren't as high as earlier in the season when he lost to Sunderland for the second time in 2013. Of course, if the Magpies continue to lose -- they are currently on a cold streak of three consecutive defeats -- he will soon find himself in water at around the same temperature as soon as after the Sunderland defeat... And it wasn't cold.

However, he managed to swim to calmer waters with a string of superb results after Sunderland back in October, starting with a win over Chelsea before seeing off Spurs, Norwich and West Brom. Lately, though, it hasn't been so rosy in the garden for Pards.

It's amazing what four wins on the spin can do, just as it's incredible what four defeats in a row can do. But that has been Newcastle's season: up and down.

Against Manchester City this coming Sunday, Pardew has a tough task on his hand. He could do with simply stopping the rot and ending that poor sequence. I'd take a draw now and I bet he would, too.

Then it's on to less daunting tasks at West Ham and Norwich before the derby with rock bottom Sunderland: Three results that could inject new life into the season going into the run-in.

For now though, it's finding a way to stop Manchester City. Some say that this game takes the pressure off the Magpies. They are 7-2 with some bookies to win a game in their own backyard. For Pardew in January, he has to control one of the only things he can -- results. He has limited say in transfers and Joe Kinnear continues to sit above him in the stands.

Now, though, Pardew has little choice but to get things right within the four walls of his dressing room. The time has come for his players to put on a performance for the manager. And if the FA Cup didn't appeal to some of them, if they can't raise themselves to take on Manchester City in a top of the table clash that will be beamed out around the world, maybe they never will.

True, they have done it before this season against Man United, Spurs and Chelsea. Now they must do it as the season reaches crunch time. Are they genuine contenders for Europe and the top six or not? By the time Sunday night comes, that question could be answered in some way by Pardew and his troops.

By then we'll know if Newcastle have stayed on the coat-tails of those in the top six, or whether they will be heading down to West Ham starting to look over their shoulders again. After a week of questions at the fan forum off the field, it's time for a few answers on it.

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