Alan Pardew backs his Newcastle United men

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ALAN Pardew is adamant that his Newcastle United players will come out fighting against Maritimo tonight – after taking the criticism that’s come their way on the chin.

Pardew’s men take on the Madeiran minnows on the back of home Premier League defeats to Swansea and West Ham.

As such, this evening’s Europa League group game (8.0pm kick-off) has taken on an added significance, with the fixture about more than just reaching the last 32.

Graeme Souness, one of Pardew’s predecessors on Tyneside, once said any Newcastle manager was only two defeats away from a crisis.

And Pardew – who believes the Magpies’ European campaign has taken its toll on the club’s domestic form – is determined that his side quickly get back to winning ways ahead of Sunday’s Premier League game at Southampton.

Asked about Souness’s quote, Pardew said: “I understand that – the fans live and breathe football here. But we’ve got less resources than Tottenham or Liverpool, or any of the Champions League teams.

“If you look at Tottenham and Liverpool, their seasons are similar to ourselves.

“Sometimes a little bit of reality needs to check in.

“But we’re not bothered. We can accept the pressure. We’ve just got to try and get a result.

“The most important thing is we can’t lose three home games.

“The fans are upset and restless, and we’ve got to put a team out which is good enough to win, and be sure to win.

“And then we’ll have to worry about Sunday when that’s done.

“Like all tenures of a football manager, you’re going to get tested at some point. This is a test for us.

“The desire in the group is to try and right the wrongs. We’ve looked at a number of issues, and we need to put it right. The West Ham and West Brom games were probably more disturbing that the Swansea game. We looked a little bit more like our old selves.”

There were some boos when Newcastle’s left the field after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Swansea, and Pardew feels there’s been an “over-reaction” to the result, which dropped United into the bottom half of the Premier League table.

However, he admits his team need to find some form – and quickly. “There’s been a little bit of over-reaction to the two defeats, but we know where we are,” he added.

“We are fighting. We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves, and we’re not feeling unlucky. We’ve got to have a resolve to win a game, and that’s what’s in the group.

“We can’t focus on (criticism). We don’t discard it, if I’m honest, but we don’t factor it in. We’ve just got to try and win the next game. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. We’re trying to win games with a lot of our big players missing.”

Pardew is likely to resist the temptation to pitch Hatem Ben Arfa into tonight’s game,despite the pressing need for a win.

Ben Arfa – arguably the Magpies’ top performer so far this season – is yet to make a Europa League appearance this season.

“If we had a fans’ vote, he’d probably be our player of the season so far,” Pardew said.

“That might be because he’s sat all these games out. That might have something to do with it.”