CHRIS Hughton did not hold back in his criticism of Newcastle's defending against Stoke City but he urged everyone to put the 2-1 defeat into context after the excellent away wins over Everton and Chelsea.
For the second successive home game, Newcastle have been brought crashing back down to earth as Kevin Nolan’s first-half penalty was overhauled by a goal from former Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones and a late own goal from James Perch.
The defeat was a bitter blow for the Magpies as they struggled to find any sort of fluency in attack, although Hughton insisted it was the lapses in concentration at the back which had been the most disappointing aspect of their play.
The United manager said: “We should have coped with their set-pieces better than we did. We were able to cope with them for the majority of the game, but it’s all about pinnacle moments and in two set-plays we have been out done.
“We knew going into the second half that we needed to get that second goal, but we didn’t do that.
“We were up against a Stoke side which upped the intensity of their game and we didn’t do enough to carve them open.
“They defended very well, they were very resilient and we couldn’t break them down.
“We didn’t create enough. We knew it was going to be tough, we knew they would play a certain way. We had to be good defensively, but we didn’t deal with the strengths they had.
“We have to give them credit, they defended very, very well and got the two goals from set-plays. All we can do is prepare the team to play against them and the strengths they have got, but you are reliant on players doing their jobs and you are reliant on players marking individuals.
“Sometimes you are up against players of quality and they have three or four who are outstanding in the air.
“It wasn’t a lack of effort, we showed a lot of endeavour, but once they got their noses in front they defended extremely well.”
Despite another setback on Tyneside, Hughton is determined to keep a lid on everyone’s emotions, as well as a tight hold of expectations around St James’ Park.
He added: “Results like this do put more pressure on us to pick up results away from home, but we are a newly promoted team from the Championship and we knew this was going to be a tough season.
“We knew this was going to be a season where we lost more games than we won. The more consistent teams have better quality players. For us, it’s a learning curve. We’ve got to make sure the lows, and it’s a big blow today, that we’re able to bounce back.
“We must not forget that this could have been the end of a very good week.
“Did anybody expect us to win at Everton? No they didn’t. Did anyone expect us to win at Chelsea? No they didn’t, but we did on both occasions.
“We’re still in a pretty good position. I’m realistic enough to know where we are at this moment. My thoughts haven’t changed.
“It would be nice to say we’ll win more than we lose – that would see us in a very favourable position in the league – but we have to be realistic.” Hughton also defended his players after strange criticism from Tony Pulis. The Stoke boss accused a Newcastle player, thought to be Joey Barton, of playacting in an effort to get Andy Wilkinson booked.
United’s manager retorted: “I would be very surprised if that is the case. We were up against a hard running, very physical side in Stoke who put themselves about.
“I didn’t see any playacting from any of our players. If other managers are going to say things I can’t legislate for that. That’s their opinion. I can only talk about my own team.
“I refute those allegations, absolutely. I’ve not spoken to Tony Pulis at all.”