BEFOREHAND some were talking about Europe, but Steve Harper viewed the 2-1 defeat to Everton as a missed opportunity to pull clear of the relegation battle.
Saturday was a good day for teams at the sharp end of the Premier League, an uncomfortable one for Newcastle United. The bad news for the Magpies is they are just six points above the drop zone. The good news is 11 teams are worse off.
Harper is more concerned with the other half of the table. “It is so close this season,” he said. “That’s why Saturday was a big opportunity for us. To be sitting on 39 points and to be in that top bracket, we’ve always known until we’ve got more points mathematically than the bottom three what could happen. The job’s still there to be done. That very much remains the case.
“The bottom three are a little bit closer to us so there’s still a lot of work to be done in the last nine games.”
Newcastle have been hard to beat this season but since Alan Pardew started his St James’ Park career on a high, they have won three of 13 matches. This season they have more victories away than at home. Far more strangely, they haven’t won a Premier League home game with a 3pm Saturday kick-off since August 2008.
“We knew at the start of the season there would be highs and lows and difficult patches,” Harper stressed. “People said at the start of the year it would be our home form that would keep us up but it’s not worked out like that. We’ve improved our away form immensely.
“But we’ve got to get this monkey off our backs, not being able to win at 3 o’clock on a Saturday. It’s an incredible statistic and the longer it goes on, people are going to talk about it more and more.”
Harper’s attitude is consistent with the dressing-room mood all season.
“It is only people outside the club who have ever assumed we would be okay from relegation,” he said. “The players take nothing for granted and we’ve got nine games left to get as many points as possible.”