DANNY Simpson insisted he and his Newcastle United team-mates were “hurting” after yesterday’s loss to Aston Villa.
James Collins’s 24th-minute header gave Gerard Houllier’s relegation-threatened team a 1-0 win at Villa Park.
The goal came from a controversial free-kick, Simpson and his team-mates having been convinced Ashley Young had dived under a challenge from captain Joey Barton.
Newcastle themselves only really pressured a nervy Villa late in the game, with goalkeeper Brad Friedel twice denying Peter Lovenkrands. Ryan Taylor also shot narrowly over from a set-piece.
Early in the game, full Premier League debutant Nile Ranger, in for the injured Shola Ameobi, shot weakly at Friedel after being found by Jonas Gutierrez.
While injury and suspension-hit United were far from their best, Simpson still felt they deserved something from the game.
“I thought we did all right,” Simpson said. “If you look over the game, I think we had the better chances.
“They looked good in bits, but Nile (Ranger), Peter and Joey all had chances.
“With their goal, it wasn’t a free kick. He’s been doing it all season – he gets a touch, and he goes down.
“He got his free kick, and there was a flick on. Harps (Steve Harper) couldn’t do anything about it.
“It hurts, as we had some really good chances.
“We said at half time, the longer it stays at 1-0, the more nervous they’ll get. They’ll drop off.
“Peter had a shot, and it was a great save from the keeper. Even if we’d got one, we might have gone on to win it.”
Newcastle had slightly the better of the first half but lacked a cutting edge particularly without the services of suspended captain and top scorer Kevin Nolan.
The Magpies were the first to threaten and a dangerous left-wing cross from Jose Enrique picked out the run of Joey Barton at the far post.
But the midfielder opted for a first time header when there was time to control the ball and his effort flew into the Holte End.
Newcastle started to impose themselves on the game and Brad Friedel went down to his left to gather Nile Ranger’s low attempt from Jonas Gutierrez’s through-ball.
Mike Williamson became the first player to be booked for bringing down Gabriel Agbonlahor in full flight.
Then after 24 minutes a superb header from Collins put Villa ahead.
Barton was upset at being penalised for bringing down Ashley Young.
Young took the free-kick himself and Collins’ glancing header flew past goalkeeper Steve Harper into the far corner of the net. It was his third goal of the campaign.
Barton appeared to be constantly berating referee Stuart Attwell and was spoken to by the official.
Newcastle United might be within touching distance of the Premier League finish line.
But it could be some time before they gather three more points to cross it, such is the havoc that has been wreaked on Alan Pardew’s side by injuries and suspensions.