• Alan Pardew targets vital victory in penultimate game at QPR
• Manager laments record of three goals in six league games
The likelihood is something will happen in the next 13 days to prevent Newcastle United from being relegated. Equally likely is that whatever it is will have nothing much to do with Newcastle United. Given Alan Pardew's look of mild surprise in his post-match press conference on being informed after this game that Wigan's victory at West Bromwich Albion meant staying in the Premier League was now out of his team's hands, this is perhaps all for the best.
It is probably understandable that Pardew should wish to focus instead on a more unrelentingly upbeat view of the swirling possibilities now engulfing the Premier League relegation endgame; most notably the fact that any team up to and including 11th-placed Stoke City could yet end up sucked into the downward swirl that has already claimed Reading and Queens Park Rangers.
Newcastle's manager will not be watching Wigan's game against Swansea on Tuesday ("I've had enough tension for one week"), a match that is now the key staging post in the end of season run-in. But his response to finding himself on the wrong side of the relegation mathematics at this late stage was that of a man for whom continuous positivity is an inflexible if slightly jarring modus operandi.
"That win is not just between us and Wigan, it's put a lot of other teams in the mix now," Pardew pointed out, after a performance in east London that began brightly, descended into languor after Papiss Cissé's goal-that-might-have-been on 20 minutes, and ended up a rearguard action in the closing quarter.
"A point here could be absolutely crucial," countered Pardew. "We've got to make it crucial now by getting three points at QPR [next Sunday]. That will probably be the key. Performance is going out the window. It really is about points total. We need a win at QPR however it comes."
Pardew is eager to cling to the mantra that a win at Loftus Road might yet provide the release of pressure his team have been edging towards these last few weeks: a collection of undisputed talents that just seems to have run out of fuel in the last month, approaching the end of the season like a yacht creeping into port with its engines dead and just the last breath of tidal momentum to keep it going.
Yet the fact remains – and at this point it is tempting to seize this grand old listing Premier League counterweight club by the cheeks and urge it to come to its senses – that a win at QPR still may not be enough. Wigan are well capable of taking six points from their final three games. Newcastle are well capable of losing to an Arsenal team that beat them 7-3 in December. It may then come down to goal difference or even goals scored, but Newcastle could still be below Roberto Martínez's helium-fuelled late-season bolters, albeit with the reasonable hope that help may yet arrive from elsewhere in this absorbing slow bicycle race. Six other clubs could still fail to reach the 41-point total Pardew has his eyes set on.
How did it come to this for Newcastle? A performance of declining momentum at an Upton Park bathed throughout in watery spring sunshine may have been a microcosm of their season. With Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa finding their passing rhythms early on Newcastle briefly looked the convincingly silky team they really ought to be. Cabaye's pass it was that put Cissé through on goal after 20 minutes. His finish beat Jussi Jaaskelainen, only for Winston Reid to hook clear with the ball either on or just over the line. The referee was unsighted. The linesman had fallen over and missed his cue. TV replays suggested it was, just about, a goal, but neither official had a clear enough view.
After which Newcastle slowly deflated as Matt Jarvis became the game's most incisive attacking force in the second half, the powerful but daintily skilled Mohamed Diamé took charge of midfield, and Andy Carroll menaced vaguely with his aerial power. Newcastle, one awkwardly angled attempt from Yoan Gouffran aside, simply didn't look like scoring, completing a run now of just three goals in their past six Premier League matches. "Goalscoring is an area of the game we've got to improve before next week," Pardew admitted afterwards. This, at least, had a distinct ring of unvarnished truth about it.
Man of the match Andy Carroll (West Ham United)