ALL’S not quite well that ends well.
Newcastle United ended a difficult, and at times troubled, 12 months with a win.
But this wasn’t a year to remember.
And, typically, there were more questions than answers after yesterday’s 3-2 victory over Everton.
As ever, the story was Alan Pardew.
Pardew, surprisingly, chose not to distance himself from speculation linking him with the vacant managerial post at his former club Crystal Palace after the match, decided in United’s favour by goals from Papiss Demba Cisse, Ayoze Perez and Jack Colback.
It would have been simple enough to reiterate his commitment to Newcastle, the club he has served for the past four years.
Pardew, maybe mischievously, chose not to.
The 53-year-old is acutely aware that many supporters would still like a managerial change at St James’s Park.
But he’s never struck me, for one, as a man to walk away from a job, let alone one of the biggest in English football.
Of course, the past year will have taken a toll on Pardew, blamed by many fans for the team’s difficulties on the pitch.
It has been a largely forgettable 12 months at St James’s Park.
A year ago, there was a measure of optimism on Tyneside after a promising start to the 2012-13 campaign.
And a 5-1 home Boxing Day victory over Stoke City and a memorable – and historic – victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford were still fresh in the memories of fans, who were hopeful of a return to European competition.
Then it all unravelled.
Yohan Cabaye’s January departure was just one factor.
Newcastle just couldn’t score without loanee Loic Remy, and the latter months of the campaign there was no hiding place for Pardew, whose tactics were questioned.
Seemingly unable to find a way to win with what he had, many, if not most, United supporters – who had witnessed another 3-0 home drubbing at the hands of Sunderland – felt he had to go.
But he didn’t, despite the mood on Tyneside.
Pardew, having guided the team to a 10th-placed finish in the Premier League had met the club’s pre-season aim.
Just three weeks after a 2-0 home success over previously-unbeaten Chelsea, Pardew was again under pressure before Everton’s visit to Tyneside.
Pardew, again without a clutch of senior players, made four changes, but not the one that many supporters had wanted ahead of the game.
Forward Yoan Gouffran – whose recent performances have come under scrutiny – kept his place.
Cisse, set to head off for the African Cup of Nations early next year with Senegal, returned to the starting XI along with Mike Williamson and Cheik Tiote, who served a one-game suspension on Boxing Day.
Williamson’s inclusion was also a surprise given Steven Taylor’s recent good form.
And it was Gouffran who was partly culpable for Everton’s first goal.
The 28-year-old was caught flat-footed in the fifth minute by over-lapping full-back Coleman, whose right-wing cross was converted at the near post by Kone, who had found a huge gap between Williamson and captain Fabricio Coloccini.
Cisse played in Moussa Sissoko seven minutes later with a flick-on, but the midfielder’s heavy touch saw the ball run to goalkeeper Joel Robles.
Newcastle, however, got themselves back on level terms later in the half thanks to Cisse, who was fortunate not to be shown a red card for an earlier elbow on Coleman.
Cisse, almost certain to be charged by the Football Association for the elbow incident, hooked the ball past Robles after a deep cross from Cheik Tiote was knocked back across goal by Williamson.
It got better for United after the break.
Tiote intercepted a loose ball and played in Perez on the edge of the box. The forward found himself some space and rolled the ball past countryman Robles, the goal his fifth of the campaign.
Robles was picking the ball out of his net again in the 68th minute.
Colback seized on an error from Everton substitute Ross Barkley and rolled the ball between the legs of Robles.
The midfielder, signed from Sunderland in the summer, made a point of pulling at the badge on his Newcastle jersey as he ran towards fans at the Gallowgate End to celebrate his first goal for the club.
A late strike from substitute Kevin Mirallas led to a dramatic final few minutes, which also saw Perez strike the post.
St James’s Park erupted at the final whistle.
But then there was the unexpected sound of silence from Pardew.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Alnwick 7; Janmaat 7, Coloccini 6, Williamson 6, Dummett 6; PEREZ 8, Sissoko 7, Tiote 7, Colback 7, Gouffran 6 (Cabella, 90); Cisse 7 (Riviere, 73, 6). Subs not used: Woodman, Santon, S Taylor, Anita, Armstrong.
EVERTON: Joel, Coleman, Distin, Alcaraz, Garbutt, Baines, Barry, McCarthy (Barkley, 46), McGeady (Mirallas, 61), Eto’o, Kone (Lukaku, 72). Subs not used: Griffiths, Oviedo, Besic, Browning.
Man of the match: Ayoze Perez. An outstanding performance from a very special talent.
Highlight: Jack Colback’s goal – and celebration.
Lowlight: The mindless elbow from Papiss Demba Cisse on Seamus Coleman.
Goals: Kone 5, Cisse 34, Perez 51, Colback 68, Mirallas 84.
Bookings: Gouffran 27, McCarthy 28, Alcaraz 71.
Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire).