ALAN Pardew was relieved to mark his 100th match as Newcastle United manager with a much-needed win at Villa Park last night.
The win – watched by owner Mike Ashley – moved the Magpies four points clear of the Premier League’s relegation zone.
And Pardew candidly admits the past few months have been tough on him personally, with the side teetering above the drop zone.
The relief of Pardew was palpable at the final whistle, with first-half goals from Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye having been enough to secure the win despite a second-half bombardment from the home side.
“Ninety to 100 wasn’t particularly comfortable,” Pardew said.
“I enjoyed the first 80, and the 100th one was nice.
“It’s been tough on myself. I take it to heart when we don’t win – I’m a winner.”
Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran made their full debuts, while another of the club’s transfer-window signings, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, came off the bench for his bow.
Emboldened by last week’s signings – and the result – Pardew is upbeat ahead of Saturday’s home game against Chelsea.
Asked if the match was a turning point in the club’s campaign, Pardew added: “Potentially, in terms of the season.
“We celebrated it like a cup final, because we built it up like a cup final.
“They’re all cup finals. We’ve still got a lot to do. This ain’t going to put all the wrongs right, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Newcastle’s first away win of the campaign helped plunge fellow strugglers Villa deeper into the relegation mire.
Villa looked to have strong claims for a penalty after 14 minutes after Christian Benteke ran onto a pass from Darren Bent.
His low cross appeared to strike the hand of Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini but referee Mike Dean waved play on.
Newcastle looked the more assured side and Davide Santon forced the first save of the game from Villa keeper Brad Guzan with a dipping drive.
It came as no surprise when Cisse broke the deadlock for Newcastle after 19 minutes with his seventh goal of the campaign.
Sissoko supplied the telling pass which was seized onto by Cisse. He kept his composure and drilled a low shot past Guzan into the corner of the net.
Villa tried to retaliate and former Newcastle player Charles N’Zogbia came close to equalising three minutes later.
His 25 yard drive contained too much power for Tim Krul but crashed against the woodwork.
But Newcastle doubled their lead after 31 minutes with a stunning strike from Cabaye.
Villa skipper Ron Vlaar’s headed clearance from a Jonas Gutierrez centre fell straight to the midfielder whose volley from just outside past the box flew past the despairing dive of Guzan.
Benteke created a yard of space for himself with a sharp turn after controlling a centre from Ashley Westwood but he could not keep his shot down.
Lambert made a double half-time substitution with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann replacing Bent and Joe Bennett.
Villa began the second period with more impetus and Krul was twice tested in quick succession, beating out Weimann’s shot on the turn and then parrying Benteke’s fierce drive.
The home side were given a life-line after 48 minutes when Mathieu Debuchy conceded a penalty after a clumsy challenge on Agbonlahor when going away from goal.
Up stepped Benteke to send Krul the wrong way from the spot for his 12th goal of the campaign.
Villa were revitalised and N’Zogbia’s rising snap-shot was only inches off target. Weimann then got clear of the Newcastle defence from Benteke’s pass but Krul was equal to his low drive.
Villa failed to maintain the early impetus of the second period although they continued to dominate territorially.
Jonas Gutierrez cleared a Matt Lowton header off the line as Newcastle held on to claim the three points.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Clark, Vlaar, Baker, Lowton, Westwood, Bannan, N’Zogbia, Bennett (Agbonlahor 46), Benteke, Bent (Weimann 46). Subs Not Used: Given, Ireland, Holman, Bowery, Lichaj. Booked: N’Zogbia, Benteke, Baker, Lowton, Agbonlahor. Goals: Benteke 49 pen.
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Steven Taylor, Coloccini, Santon, Perch (Shola Ameobi 69), Cabaye, Gouffran (Anita 74), Sissoko (Yanga-Mbiwa 79), Gutierrez, Cisse. Subs Not Used: Harper, Williamson, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi. Booked: Gutierrez, Shola Ameobi. Goals: Cisse 19, Cabaye 31.
Att: 30, 334 Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).