NEWCASTLE United’s win over Fulham has lifted a weight off the shoulders of club’s players ahead of the Tyne-Wear derby, according to manager Alan Pardew.
An injury-time goal from Papiss Cisse gave Newcastle a 1-0 victory over Martin Jol’s team at St James’s Park yesterday.
Cisse missed three first-half chances, with Pardew believing the striker’s nerves got the better of him before the break.
However, he made no mistake deep in added time when he lifted the ball over goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Buoyed by the result, which has eased Newcastle’s Premier League relegation fears, Pardew believes his players can face Benfica and Sunderland on home turf with confidence this week.
The second leg of the club’s Europa League quarter-final on Thursday night is followed by the derby on Sunday.
“He had three easier chances than the one he scored,” Pardew said. “He’s in good form at the minute. In the second half, he was terrific.
“He was poor in the first half. He was nervous and edgy, like most of us.
“We would have had to take that into Sunderland if we hadn’t have won. Now we can play with a little bit more composure and hopefully get another win.”
Pardew’s side – and Cisse especially – had previously spurned a catalogue of chances against a Fulham side who suffered their first defeat in six games.
Newcastle dominated in terms of opportunities after Dimitar Berbatov, with four goals in four games coming into this match, had audaciously curled a 20-yard shot just over the right-hand angle of Tim Krul’s crossbar and post.
But the win was not without cost because after Steven Taylor had planted a header just over the crossbar in running on to a right-wing cross from Moussa Sissoko, Pardew’s injury woes increased further.
Already without a host of big names for the run-in, the sight of right-back Davide Santon pulling up and clutching the top of his left thigh in the 15th minute will only have intensified Pardew’s anxiety.
Beyond that, one sliced clearance from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to a low left-wing ball from Damien Duff was the only other serious moment of concern for Pardew and the Magpies through to shortly before the interval.
Instead, going into the break, they should arguably have been in front, only to see three opportunities go begging in the space of six minutes for Cisse either side of the half-hour mark.
Twice Cisse was set up by Sissoko, but on both occasions his right-foot shots were wide, albeit his first much closer than his second as Schwarzer was relieved to see it flash just beyond his left-hand post.
The visitors, though, weathered the storm and countered late on with two chances of their own in a two-minute burst of activity.
From Berbatov’s through ball, Bryan Ruiz’s angled drive was blocked by Yanga-Mbiwa for a corner eventually swung into the heart of the area by Giorgios Karagounis.
In a melee, Stanislav Manolev was the man who managed to get a boot on the ball inside the six-yard box, but a host of bodies denied him an opener in a half that eventually petered out.
For 20 minutes after the interval, however, it was all Newcastle and another sustained spell where the only thing lacking was a goal.
Initially, Schwarzer was beaten in the 53rd minute via a deflection on to his bar as Emmanuel Frimpong, on minutes earlier for the injured Eyong Enoh, was in the way of a dipping shot from Vurnon Anita, who had earlier replaced Santon.
Five minutes later and again Cisse was guilty of another miss, this time stabbing tamely at a low ball in from Yoan Gouffran that neither Philippe Senderos nor Hangeland could cut out.
After Schwarzer saved an angled drive from Taylor, United then hit the post twice in a matter of seconds, appearing to underline this was simply not going to be their day in front of goal.
From a Sylvain Marveaux corner, Gouffran’s initial flick appeared to brush Sascha Riether on the line – potentially even his right arm – on the way to clipping the right-hand upright, with claims for a penalty ignored by referee Kevin Friend.
The rebound fell to Cisse, only for his hapless display to continue in front of goal as from four yards out he sidefooted against the same piece of woodwork.
Proving they were still in the game, Fulham almost stole it in the 68th minute as it took a brilliant fingertip save from Tim Krul to deny Berbatov with a header after he had latched on to a free-kick from John Arne Riise.
Towards the close, Cisse’s agonising day continued as a goal-bound header to a right-wing cross from Anita was superbly turned away by Schwarzer.
But with the clock ticking, Cisse latched on to a loose ball in the area to beat Schwarzer from close range.
His celebrations were fervent as he jumped in among the home Newcastle fans, earning himself a yellow card in the process.
Newcastle: Krul, Simpson (Campbell 81), Yanga-Mbiwa, Steven Taylor, Santon (Anita 17), Marveaux, Cabaye, Sissoko, Gutierrez, Cisse, Gouffran (Ameobi 69). Subs Not Used: Elliot, Williamson, Bigirimana, Obertan. Booked: Sissoko, Cisse. Goals: Cisse 90.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Riether, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise, Manolev (Rodallega 81), Karagounis, Enoh (Frimpong 50), Duff, Ruiz, Berbatov. Subs Not Used: Etheridge, Richardson, Hughes, Frei, Emanuelson. Booked: Senderos, Riise.
Att: 51,847 Ref: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).