JOHN Carver insists that Newcastle United are in a relegation fight – after a sixth successive loss yesterday.
Carver’s side were beaten 3-1 at home by Tottenham, leaving the 14th-placed Magpies only seven points clear of the Premier League’s bottom three with five games left to play.
The defeat saw Newcastle equal the run of six defeats a year ago, the Tynesiders’ worst sequence in the Premier League era.
Head coach Carver – whose squad has been decimated by injuries and suspensions – conceded that his men are in trouble, with the team seemingly in freefall.
“Absolutely, we’re in amongst it,” said Carver.
“You have got sides – and I’ll use Leicester as an example – who are winning games.
“We aren’t, but we have got to find a way of trying to find some points and put some points on the board.”
Carver had questioned the “DNA” of his squad after the Wear-Tyne derby defeat earlier this month, but he maintained after the Tottenham game that the players are capable of getting the points United need between now and the end of the season.
“I think there’s enough experience to deal with it, yes,” he said.
“We have got to stop losing players, though, sendings-off and injury.”
Nacer Chadli gave Tottenham a 30th-minute lead after Yoan Gouffran lost possession, but former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback levelled seconds into the second half.
A 53rd-minute Christian Erikson free-kick restored the visitors’ advantage, and Harry Kane added a third in injury-time.
“I’m disappointed, I’m angry – I’ve got all the different emotions going through my head,” added Carver.
“But the bottom line is it’s another defeat and that’s not good enough.
“You could see the nerves and the tension amongst everybody on the pitch – well, certainly in black and white – and it showed in that first-half performance.
“There was a lot of huff and puff, and that’s about it.
“But we conceded a really poor goal again – a poor give-away – and before you know it, it’s in the back of your net, so you’re fighting an uphill battle.
“We had a chat at half-time. I went quite positive – I thought I’d bring two guys on that would get us up the pitch with a bit of pace and a bit of drive – and we got off to a good start, scored a decent goal. But it seemed to awaken Spurs and all of a sudden, the game changed again.
“We conceded a free-kick and conceded another stupid goal from a lateral free-kick, which seems to be our Achilles heel at the moment.”
Meanwhile, Carver refused to discuss his decision to axe Argentinian utility man Jonas Gutierrez, who did not even make the bench.
Asked why he was not involved, Carver said: “I have got my reasons for that, and I don’t want to talk about Jonas any more now.”
The visitors took the lead from their first meaningful effort on goal, and while there was much to admire about Chadli’s strike, the Magpies contributed to their own downfall.
Gouffran needlessly squandered possession in the middle of the field and as Chadli advanced, the black and white shirts back-pedalled impotently to allow him to send a dipping, swerving left-foot shot beyond Tim Krul’s despairing dive.
It might have been worse for the home side a minute before the break when, after Nabil Bentaleb had cleverly flicked the ball over Colback and fed Chadli wide on the left, he slid in striker Harry Kane, who forced a fine save from Krul at his near post.
Carver made a double substitution at the break when he sent on Sammy Ameobi and Gabriel Obertan for Mehdi Abeid and Gouffran, and his side were level within 20 seconds.
Perez wormed his way into the penalty area from the right and crossed for full-back Daryl Janmaat, whose initial effort was blocked, but Colback slid the rebound home to drag Newcastle back into it.
However, Spurs needed just seven minutes to regain the lead as the Magpies capitulated from a set-piece as Krul could only help Eriksen’s free-kick into his own net as it sped across goal.
Bentaleb was inches away from killing the game off two minutes later when he powered a header just over from Chadli’s cross.
It took a remarkable save by Krul at point-blank range to keep out Kane’s 67th-minute volley.
Krul excelled himself once again to deny Erik Lamela one-on-one with 15 minutes remaining, but his resilience was to prove in vain at the death when Kane accepted Lamela’s pass to round off a lighting 91st-minute break with the home side pushing for an equaliser.
NEWCASTLE: Krul, Janmaat, Williamson, Coloccini, Anita (Armstrong 75), Abeid (Obertan 46), R Taylor, Colback, Gouffran (Ameobi 46), Perez, Cabella. Subs not used: Riviere, Kemen, Woodman, Sterry. Booked: Colback, Cabella. Goal: Colback 46
TOTTENHAM: Vorm, Dier, Fazio, Vertonghen, Rose (Davies 82), Paulinho (Mason 88), Bentaleb, Lamela, Eriksen, Chadli (Dembele 78), Kane. Subs not used: Soldado, Yedlin, Townsend, Friedel. Booked: Paulinho, Lamela, Vertonghen, Bentaleb. Goals: Chadli 30, Eriksen 53, Kane 90
Att: 47,427. Ref: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)