ALAN Pardew couldn’t fault his Newcastle United players – or the club’s fans – at the Etihad Stadium.
Newcastle’s 11-game unbeaten run this season was ended by Manchester City on Saturday.
Roberto Mancini’s Premier League leaders won 3-1 thanks to penalties from Mario Balotelli and Sergio Ageuro, and a goal from Micah Richards.
Dan Gosling’s 89th minute goal was nothing more than a consolation for United, who remain third in the division.
However, the result might have been different had Demba Ba taken one or both of his first-half chances, while Hatem Ben Arfa, making his first league start of the season at the stadium where he broke his leg last season, struck the post after the break.
And Pardew was full of praise for his team – and Newcastle’s lively 1,700-strong travelling support.
“To get this far, they’ve been outstanding,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“I said to them when you play the big teams, you need the breaks to go your way.
“Demba, nine times out of 10, would have scored that. If it hadn’t hit the post, and gone in, suddenly we’d have had a different atmosphere in the stadium.
“If we’d had a break or two here or three, or a refereeing decision had gone our way, it might have been a different scoreline. Hatem had to bury the ghost of the injury he had here, and I was proud of him too. He worked his socks off.
“We know we’ve got two really tough games coming up, but we can take belief into the next game.
“We just didn’t have the breaks. Maybe our breaks will come next week, but you certainly couldn’t fault our effort and our fans. It was a brilliant effort.”
Pardew felt City were the strongest team he’d ever encountered as a manager.
“Looking at the game, I thought we were a little bit too deep, but we were comfortable,” he added.
“That comfort cost us the goal, because we just needed to come out a bit more.
“We had two great chances to score before they did, and we’d have seen a different game then.
“That cost us a little bit of belief.
“They’re a powerful side. They’re a strong side – one of the strongest sides I’ve ever put a team against.”