ALAN Pardew’s relationship with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is being tested – with the club in freefall.
Pardew’s beleaguered Magpies lost a club-record fifth successive Premier League game on Saturday as Swansea came from behind to win 2-1 at St James’s Park thanks to Wilfried Bony’s brace.
Newcastle remain ninth in the table, but Stoke City and Crystal Palace are now within striking distance, with three games left to play.
Pardew claimed his relationship with Ashley was strengthened in the aftermath of his headbutt on Hull midfielder David Meyler, for which he was handed a seven-match ban.
However, Ashley, linked with a move for Palace manager Tony Pulis over the weekend, had demanded a top-10 finish from Pardew this term – yet the once-promising campaign has unravelled alarmingly in recent months.
Fans had called for Pardew – who will be back on the touchline for Newcastle’s next game, next Monday’s visit to fourth-placed Arsenal – to be sacked during last weekend’s defeat to Stoke.
While there was no repeat of those chants on Saturday, the players were booed off the pitch for the third home game in a row.
However, Pardew – who will meet Ashley for talks at the end of the campaign – was grateful that supporters did not turn on him – or his players – during the Swansea game.
“The fans were brilliant – they didn’t give us a hard time or make it a negative stadium,” Pardew said.
“They were with us, and I thank them for that. It would have been easy to go down that line.
“I’m just so disappointed that we didn’t get a point or any positive result.”
It remains to be seen whether Ashley’s backing for Pardew, which was steadfast in the wake of the headbutt, has wavered given recent performances and results.
Certainly, Pardew – who can point to the January sale of Yohan Cabaye and the recent injury to Loic Remy as mitigating factors – can expect to face some uncomfortable questions.
However, the 52-year-old – 18 months into a seven-year contract – felt his team deserved something from the Swansea match, decided by an injury-time Bony penalty.
“It was a cruel blow, unfortunately,” said Pardew, who lost strikers Papiss Cisse and Luuk de Jong to injury in the first half.
“We had a couple of early blows with Luuk and Papiss. Our gameplan went out of the window a little bit, and (Swansea) came here and just wanted a result,” added Pardew.
“I felt for the players and the club. At a professional level, that’s a cruel blow conceding those goals at the end of each half.
“For large portions of the game, Swansea sat deep and controlled the ball, but didn’t really hurt us.
“It was fairly comfortable. They had a couple of breakaways. For us, it’s hard to talk about, really.
“I don’t want to make excuses. I just think it was desperately unlucky that they conceded that last goal.”
Newcastle took the lead against the run of play as Shola Ameobi ended their 383-minute wait for a goal, climbing high to head keeper Tim Krul’s clearance down to De Jong, who in turn slipped the ball back into the striker’s path and looked on as he held off his man before shooting left-footed on the turn past Michel Vorm, for his first league goal since December 2012.
Swansea levelled in first-half stoppage time when Bony rose above Mike Williamson to head an inswinging Ben Davies corner beyond Krul.
Bony struck a last-gasp penalty winner after substitute Marvin Emnes had been tripped by Cheick Tiote, securing just a second league win in 10 attempts for the visitors.
Newcastle: Krul, Anita, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett, Gosling (Armstrong 81), Tiote, Cisse (Debuchy 21), De Jong (Remy 40), Gouffran, Shola Ameobi. Subs not used: Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara, Elliot, S Taylor. Booked: Gosling, Tiote. Goal: Shola Ameobi 23.
Swansea: Vorm, Rangel, Amat, Williams, B Davies, Shelvey, Britton, de Guzman, Hernandez (Emnes 81), Routledge (Bartley 90), Bony. Subs not used: Fulton, Taylor, Dyer, Tremmel, Ngog. Goals: Bony 45, 90 pen
Att: 51,057. Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).