KEVIN Nolan has blamed individual mistakes and not the team’s formation for Newcastle United’s poor home results.
The Magpies were unbeaten all season in the Championship at St James’ Park, but have lost two out of three on home soil so far this season following the back-to-back defeats to Blackpool and Stoke.
That has raised concerns about Chris Hughton’s preference for a lone striker, with Nolan tucked in behind Andy Carroll in an advanced midfield role.
But Nolan has dismissed the debate about systems and set-ups as he argued it was a problem defending set-pieces which allowed Stoke to take all three points on Sunday.
“People make a massive thing about it, but every Premier League team play like this,” said Nolan, whose first-half penalty on Sunday took his tally this season three goals in seven games.
“Manchester United and Chelsea play like it at home, so why can’t Newcastle play it at home? Why are we always a 4-4-2 side? I’ve never understood why Newcastle have to play two up front.
“We’ve got two wingers who ran riot in the first half (against Stoke). Even when we put Shola (Ameobi) on in the second half, it didn’t change anything.
“We’ve got to be adaptable and I think we are. We can play different formations, but we’re living in an era and a league of 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 if you like.
“You know, last week we were brilliant at Everton and nobody moaned about playing 4-5-1 then.
“We started off well against Stoke in a 4-5-1, but we let sloppy goals in and suddenly the formation is being questioned. The formation wasn’t the problem, the little mistakes at set-pieces were the problem. They were costly.”
Nolan will always look to maintain an equilibrium at Newcastle, refusing to be too disheartened by a defeat or over-confident after a victory.
It is part of his job as skipper and, despite his frustration at seeing Stoke overturn a 1-0 half-time deficit, the former Bolton Wanderers star looked to ensure the disappointment does not fester.
He said: “We have to keep looking at the bigger picture. We’re in a new league and we’re a new Newcastle if you like, and we will keep working towards our aims.
“We’re there or thereabouts at the moment. We know we could have had more points on the table and we probably should have more points on the table if you look at the games we have lost at home, but that’s what this league does to you.
“I’m sure we will win games we probably don’t deserve to along the way. We’ve already lost games we should have won, but that’s why the Premier League is so punishing. We’ve got to look forward now and get on with it.
“It’s another setback at home, but that is all it is, a setback. Obviously we wanted to continue from the two great results we’ve had away from home, we wanted to keep the ball rolling.”
Nevertheless, there was also a warning from Nolan as he criticised the mistakes which allowed Stoke to score from two set-pieces in the second half and hit the woodwork from another.
He added: “We’ve come unstuck because of two badly defended set-pieces. That has to be a massive lesson for us to learn because we cannot afford to give goals away as sloppy as that.
“We’d been working on that all week, they didn’t come with any surprises. We controlled the game for long periods and then we got sloppy at the back.
“We gave them more set piece opportunities than we would have liked and they punished us. We were very sloppy and by our standards, it wasn’t good enough.
“We’ve got to make sure we learn from it because a lot of teams will come here looking to do the same. We can’t get away from the fact that, no matter how well we have played, we’ve been beaten twice at home now.
“Teams will look to absorb the pressure here and attack us through set-pieces. It’s a harsh lesson, but we have to take it on board quickly.”