Defensive errors costly again

Posted by Marc Duffy

Matthew Lewis/Getty ImagesNewcastle were left dumbfounded as two late Stoke goals sent the Magpies to their fourth consecutive defeat.

For 80 minutes, Newcastle were comfortable. Up until then, Tim Krul had barely been tested, Papiss Cisse had scored and with several counterattacks Newcastle, looked to be the most likely scorers of a second goal. Unfortunately for Newcastle these games last 90 minutes.

When a team has lost three in a row and are suffering their worst injury crisis in years, Stoke away is one of the last fixtures you'd want to play. Before tonight, Stoke had only conceded one goal at home (vs Manchester City) but were only two points ahead of a struggling Newcastle, so this was not an impossible task.

That was proven in the first half as both sides struggled to make an attacking breakthrough. Newcastle were much more industrious than in recent weeks but still lacked a cutting edge.

Two minutes into the second half, Newcastle made a breakthrough. Demba Ba's shot was spilled by Asmir Begovic and Cisse was on hand to slot home. Stoke were on the back foot as Cisse broke again and his shot was well saved by Begovic while the home team struggled to create any chances of note. Tony Pulis made two changes to shake things up -- Matthew Etherington and Charlie Adam made way for Michael Kightly and Cameron Jerome. This seemed to infuriate the home support who began to chant "attack, attack, attack attack attack", but it was their manager who was proven to be right.

Another chance fell to the visitors but Demba Ba's hard and low shot was well-saved by Begovic before Kenwyne Jones missed Stoke's best chance of the game up until then, heading straight at Krul.

Newcastle had sucked me in. Again. After all of these years. When will I learn? As the clock ticked on, I began to honestly believe we would win. Then with nine minutes to play Stoke were level. Jerome turned Jonas Gutierrez inside out and delivered a perfect cross onto the head of an unmarked Jonathan Walters who finished well. It quickly became apparent that only one team was going to win the game from there on in as the home crowd woke up and the players responded. It only took Stoke three more minutes to score the winner with Newcastle's defensive frailties exposed yet again. Jones dominated Michael Williamson in the air to head a long ball down to Jerome who was totally free because of some schoolboy ball-watching by Fabricio Coloccini -- Jerome scored easily. A good goal, showing direct football at its best.

2 v 1 to Stoke and game over.

There were positives -- the work rate was better than it has been for weeks, Cisse looked much more energetic and he scored a goal. Stoke weren't allowed to play for long stretches of the game but at the end of the day, this was Newcastle's fourth consecutive defeat, something that hasn't happened since the relegation season. Alan Pardew has only won one of the nine games since signing his eight-year contract.

Wigan at home next Monday night is now a six-pointer. They lost at home to Manchester City tonight but by all accounts they played well for a large part of the game. They are one place below Newcastle, separated only by goal difference. After Wigan, Newcastle face Fulham away, Manchester City at home, QPR at home, Manchester United away, Arsenal away, Everton at home -- the most difficult run of fixtures in the season.

For years, Newcastle supporters have hounded individual players -- supporters at all clubs do this and I have done it myself -- but until we get through this terrible run, we need to stop it. We all know who our weak links are and we all know that they have no one challenging beneath them. There are very, very few options courtesy of our flawed transfer policy so we need to get behind what we do have, otherwise we will be playing second tier football again. That includes the manager too. Like him or loathe him, he is here to stay and the danger of demanding his removal and getting it, is who would follow him in through the door. The owner of this football club is the man responsible for making the worst managerial appointment in Premier League history when Joe Kinnear arrived at the club and sent us down.

On Monday night we need to create a positive atmosphere. Howay the lads. Support the team and if January comes and goes leaving the manager hung out to dry again, then we can voice our frustrations.

Follow me on Twitter @MarcSDuffy

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