FOR once, John Carver didn’t have much to say.
Carver’s post-match Press conference after Saturday’s 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion lasted just over four minutes.
Newcastle United’s head coach sat down in St James’s Park’s Press room, lauded his team’s performance and praised the club’s fans before getting up and leaving.
And that was that.
Carver had had a bit more to say a week earlier at the King Power Stadium after his team’s defeat to Leicester City.
This time, however, his team had done his talking ON the pitch.
Carver had had a bit more to say a week earlier at the King Power Stadium after his team’s defeat to Leicester City. This time, however, his team had done his talking ON the pitch.
Carver had just stood through the longest 94 minutes of his coaching career.
It had followed what Carver had described as “the toughest week of his life”.
And his programme notes were short and to the point.
Carver wrote: “The time for talking is over. Actions speak louder than words and we have to start delivering on the pitch.
“Get behind the team this afternoon and roar us on to three huge points.”
Newcastle didn’t take three points, but Carver and the club’s supporters were able to take heart from a performance which was a step-change from what they had witnessed in the previous eight outings.
It ended an eight-game losing streak which had left the club perched perilously above the relegation zone.
The mood on Tyneside wasn’t helped by events on Merseyside earlier in the day.
Sunderland climbed above Newcastle after their 2-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park, and it got worse before it got better for Carver’s side, who at least applied themselves in the opening half-hour.
What United lacked in ideas they made up for in intensity.
But goals for Leicester City and Aston Villa edged United closer to the bottom three.
And then it happened.
Newcastle’s inability to defend set-pieces has been a thread to a season which has been slowly unpicked over the past few months, and Victor Anichebe, no stranger to scoring against United, was the beneficiary for West Brom.
The striker lost his marker and met a free-kick from Craig Gardner to put West Brom into the lead – and plunge Newcastle into the bottom three.
Few inside St James’s Park could forsee a comeback given what they have witnessed since the turn of the year.
Yet nine minutes later, United were back level – and out of the relegation zone.
A scuffed free-kick from Ryan Taylor, handed defensive midfield duties alongside Jack Colback, reached Ayoze Perez, who lashed the ball past Boaz Myhill with his left foot.
The relief on and off the pitch was palpable as Perez celebrated his seventh goal of the season with his team-mates.
Perez might not score too many more important goals in his career.
Things got better in the second half when Danny Ings put Burnley ahead against Hull City.
Fit-again Papiss Demba Cisse, back after serving a seven-game suspension for spitting, came on for the last 21 minutes, but he didn’t get a proper sight of goal.
And Newcastle survived a scare at the other end to claim what could prove to be a hugely-important point.
Carver’s players had also made a point, though the attitude and application seen against West Brom shouldn’t be a cause for celebration in itself.
They played with a level of commitment which hasn’t been seen since the second half against Arsenal, and Hull’s defeat has left Steve Bruce’s side in an unenviable position ahead of their game against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
Newcastle, however, still have work to do.
United need to WIN one of their last two games, and that is a feat which has proved beyond them since February 28.
Carver, clearly unhappy with the reporting of his “best coach in the Premier League” comments, made his own point when he abruptly ended his Press conference.
He said: “It’s just like another week in my world, isn’t it?
“And I’m going to finish on this: it’s been a tough week, there’s been an awful lot said.
“Some of the things I have said were maybe taken in the wrong context, and I would like to just say every time I go and play golf and I’m on the first tee, I think I’m the best golfer in the world.
“When I played cricket as a youngster I thought I was the best all-round cricketer in the world, so read into that whatever you want.
“But on that note, there’s a bit of relief in there because we have stopped the run of defeats, but the work is still to be done and it’s still in our hands.”
Carver’s team lacks quality at both ends of the pitch, but what it can’t lack is intensity against Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United.
If they can match the effort put in against West Brom, Newcastle will get over the line.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul 7, ANITA 7 (Abeid, 90), Coloccini 7, Dummett 7, Gutierrez 6, Sissoko 6, R Taylor 7, Colback 7, Perez 7 (Ameobi, 85), Riviere 6 (Cisse, 69, 6), Cabella 6. Subs not used: Woodman, Satka, Aarons, Gouffran.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Myhill, Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Lescott, Gardner (Berahino, 69), Fletcher, Mulumbu (Morrison, 55), Yacob, Brunt, Anichebe (McManaman, 78). Subs not used: Rose, Wisdom, Baird, Ideye.
Man of the match: Vurnon Anita. Committed and energetic.
Highlight: The feeling of relief inside the stadium when Ayoze Perez levelled.
Lowlight: The defending for Victor Anichebe’s goal.
Goals: Anichebe 32, Perez 41
Bookings: Gutierrez 31, Dawson 52, McManaman 79, Johnson 82, Yacob 85
Referee: Chris Foy (St Helens)