Both Chelsea and Liverpool’s defeats last night cemented Newcastle’s position in sixth place for another week at least, also keeping the dreams of a top five finish alive.
Surely it can be said now that sixth place is now the Magpies’ to lose.
Newcastle need to win seven of their last nine games to be guaranteed sixth place ahead of Liverpool who are five points behind, with United only two points behind fifth placed Chelsea.
Although it wasn’t their best game of the season, Alan Pardew’s side need to build on the performance against Norwich. Although four out of five of January signing Papiss Cisse’s shots were on target, he could have easily had a first half hat trick.
Pardew’s makeshift side showed that the team have what it takes to win ugly.
An injury to Ryan Taylor, and an apparent lack of confidence in Davide Santon, forced Jonas Gutierrez to play the majority of the game at left-back. It wasn’t until Hatem Ben Arfa was substituted off for Santon on the hour mark that Jonas was moved back in to midfield.
Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that James Perch would be in the starting XI but he put in one of his best performances in the centre of the pitch in Cheick Tiote’s absence.
With only nine games left in the season, Liverpool have an arguably easier run in than Newcastle. However, Chelsea’s remaining set of fixtures are as difficult as ours.
The Blues are still in the Champions League and manager Roberto Di Matteo will have one eye on that competition in order to appease owner Roman Abramovich who is still searching for his first Champion’s League title since he took over the club in 2003.
There is plenty of competition for places in the attacking areas of Newcastle’s side, it just needs to be hoped that our defensive cover holds out until the end of the season.
Demba Ba is currently going through a goal drought of sorts having not scored for five games but Newcastle have managed to score in four of these five games which shows there are goals in the side. In our next six fixtures, I think it’s safe to say that at least five of them are winnable games which would set the side up for their end of season run against Man City, Everton and Chelsea.