CHEIK Tiote says he must not let the standards he set against Cardiff City drop – or he’ll face the axe.
The Newcastle midfielder put in his best performance of the season on Saturday.
Tiote was preferred to Vurnon Anita, who was unlucky to be dropped at the Cardiff City Stadium after a series of impressive performances in front of the Magpies’ back four.
The inclusion of Tiote ahead of Anita drew some criticism from fans before the game, as did the omission of Hatem Ben Arfa, a late substitute.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew felt Tiote would better get to grips with Cardiff’s powerful midfielder, Gary Medel.
And the team justified its selection in a dominant first half for Newcastle, when Loic Remy struck twice. Peter Odemwingie pulled a goal back for Malky Mackay’s team after the break.
Tiote – who struggled for form last season – feels the competition for midfield places will again bring the best out of him.
“That’s the good thing for us as players – when you have an opportunity, you have to take it,” Tiote said.
“There are too many good players in the squad, and the manager has to make a decision.
“When you are put on the pitch you, have to give all you have and perform – or you lose your place.”
The performance and result eased the pressure on manager Alan Pardew, who had come under renewed fire from some supporters after the defeats to Everton and Hull City.
And the importance of the match wasn’t lost on Tiote.
“It was very important for us, because we lost the last two games,” he said. “We needed that reaction, and we found it. Everybody is happier now because we won the game.”
Yohan Cabaye marshalled a Newcastle midfield which enjoyed complete control in the middle of the park in the first half.
Remy opened the scoring when he received the ball from Moussa Sissoko on halfway and was given the freedom to drive forward before cutting in from the left and firing low into the bottom left-hand corner.
Cardiff could have few complaints, and the lead doubled in the 38th minute. Cabaye dissected the home defence and, after David Marshall had beaten out Papiss Cisse’s shot, Remy followed up to beat Ben Turner’s attempted block.
It could have been 3-0 before the break. Cabaye caught Marshall out by going for goal from a wide free-kick.
The shot beat the goalkeeper, but not the right-hand post.
Cardiff sent on Jordon Mutch at the interval in place of the ineffectual Kim Bo-kyung and the former Birmingham man instantly threaded a lovely through ball for Fraizer Campbell, before teeing up Peter Whittingham to shoot just wide.
Mutch was again heavily involved when Odemwingie pulled a goal back. Aron Gunnarsson nicked ahead of Mike Williamson and Mutch’s delicate flick allowed Odemwingie to dummy the advancing Tim Krul and score his first Premier League goal for his new club.
From a position of comfort, Newcastle were suddenly rocking, and Gunnarsson narrowly failed to tap in Campbell’s ball across the box.
A magical Mutch dribble soon had them on the back foot again and Krul was forced to save from Craig Bellamy.
Cardiff were piling on the pressure and Krul had to be alert to deny Mutch after the midfielder had clipped over him.
Williamson almost turned into his own net as time ran down, but Newcastle just about clung on for a valuable win.
Cardiff: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor, Odemwingie (Maynard 81), Gunnarsson, Kim (Mutch 46), Medel, Whittingham, Campbell (Bellamy 66). Subs Not Used: Hudson, Noone, Cowie, Lewis. Booked: Gunnarsson. Goals: Odemwingie 58.
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, Tiote, Cabaye (Ben Arfa 86), Gouffran, Sissoko, Remy (Gutierrez 71), Cisse. Subs Not Used: Anita, Yanga-Mbiwa, Elliot, Sammy Ameobi, Dummett. Goals: Remy 30, 38.
Att: 27,538 Ref: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).