Party’s over for Newcastle United players

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ALAN Pardew says Newcastle United’s players are right to cancel their Christmas party.

Pardew’s under-pressure side remain just two points above the Premier League’s relegation zone after Saturday’s home defeat to Manchester City.

The club’s squad usually go away for a Christmas party this month, but the players – who travelled to Glasgow last year – decided it wasn’t right to celebrate given the dismal run of form which has left the club close to the league’s bottom three.

“It’s out of respect to our fans, and what we’ve served this year,” Pardew said.

“There’s no party for us, and the same for the staff. That’s how it should be.”

Supporters have been increasingly critical of Pardew and his players, who had been expected to again challenge for a European place after last season’s fifth-placed finish.

However, injuries and suspensions have taken a toll on the team, and the attacking fluency of last term hasn’t been replicated.

And for the moment, the club’s only concern is pulling away from the relegation zone.

“Trust me, there have been horrible things said about our group and our staff,” added Pardew, whose side face Queens Park Rangers at St James’s Park on Saturday looking for what only be their second win in nine league games.

“But we’re together, and we’re fighting and trying to put it right. Fans have to realise this isn’t just a game to us – it’s our livelihoods and our profession. It pays our bills.

“Not only that – we have to have a certain pressure of entertaining our fans who pay good money to come and watch.

“Looking at all those factors, we’ve not done enough this year. That’s why I think it’s right they called it off.”

Pardew has suffered a blow with the news that Hatem Ben Arfa has been ruled out of Newcastle’s Christmas and New Year fixtures. The forward will be sidelined over the festive period along with Yohan Cabaye and Steven Taylor.

On Saturday, the pace and movement of Samir Nasri, David Silva, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero, coupled with the vision of the imperious Yaya Toure, was simply too much for Newcastle to handle at times and had it not been for the efforts of goalkeeper Tim Krul, and some less than effective finishing, the game could have been out of their reach long before the half-time whistle sounded.

City took the lead in magnificently-constructed style with 10 minutes gone when a Toure pass split the home defence and Nasri unselfishly squared for Aguero to slide the ball into the empty net.

In an instant, the flow of the game had changed and Pardew’s men found themselves chasing shadows.

Tevez was denied a second three minutes later by Krul’s point-blank save and Nasri fired against the foot of the post after 20 minutes before Mike Williamson blocked Aguero’s follow-up on the line.

City doubled their lead with six minutes of the half remaining. Javi Garcia met Silva’s left-wing corner with a header which full-back Davide Santon perhaps should have cleared at the far post, but could only hack into his own net.

Newcastle returned determined not to capitulate, and went close twice within four minutes of the restart with Ba heading over and Santon drilling a drive into the side-netting.

They got their reward with 51 minutes gone when, after Vurnon Anita’s corner had been half-cleared, Coloccini hooked the ball back into the penalty area where Ba beat the offside trap to head firmly past Hart.

The Magpies came within inches of levelling two minutes later when Cisse span on Anita’s pass and blasted over, but it took another crucial save by Krul to keep their hopes alive after Tevez had been played in over the top with 57 minutes gone.

Ba stabbed the ball into the side-netting from the last of a series of right-wing Anita corners, and then prompted Hart to make a solid save with a rasping drive from distance.

However, City made sure 12 minutes from time when Pablo Zabaleta got in down the left and crossed for Toure to make it 3-1.

Aguero might have extended City’s lead as time ran down, curling a shot just wide and then chipping harmlessly across goal.

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson (Ferguson 82), Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, Perch, Tiote (Marveaux 74), Anita, Gutierrez, Cisse (Shola Ameobi 79), Ba. Subs not used: Elliot, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi, Tavernier. Booked: Williamson, Simpson, Perch. Goals: Ba 51.

Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Nastasic, Toure, Clichy, Silva, Javi Garcia, Toure, Nasri (Kolarov 37), Aguero, Tevez (Lescott 79), Kolarov (Dzeko 72). Subs not used: Pantilimon, Sinclair, Rekik, Razak. Booked: Aguero, Toure. Goals: Aguero 10, Javi Garcia 39, Toure 78.

Att: 49,579. Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).