Slipping into the bottom three with more than half the season gone, and a crunch game against a relegation rival on the horizon, may not seem an obvious reason for positivity. Newcastle United’s Ayoze Perez’s glass is half-full, however.
An FA Cup win at Blackburn Rovers – Newcastle’s first in the competition away from home for 13 years – was a massive boost for the players and fans on Tuesday.
Perez, too, insists that the performance against Chelsea last time out in the Premier League was also something to cling to, even though a 2-1 defeat left the Magpies slumped in the relegation zone.
Prior to kick-off, Newcastle’s players had been aware of slipping into the bottom three thanks to other results before their teatime start at Stamford Bridge, but Perez says their league position won’t change their tactics – though it could have a positive effect on their mindset going into a series of big games, starting with the home clash against Cardiff City tomorrow.
“Yes, it changes things in a positive way,” he said. “We know it’s time to pick up points.
“We have a big chance to get three points against Cardiff at our home.
“We have to go for it. The schedule is not kind to us, with the FA Cup replay and playing the top teams all in a row, but we’ve got the chance to win against Cardiff, and obviously we need to win that game.
“We will go for it.
“Obviously you are always focused on other teams results and checking them. We knew before the Chelsea game (that Newcastle had fallen into the relegation zone), but that didn’t change our approach.
“We know our gameplan, we know what we need to do, and we just need to do it better.
“For a moment at Chelsea the feeling was that we could have got a draw at least, but we couldn’t.
“It was a great performance, we pushed at the end and could have got more from the game. We were close away from home in a tough game against Chelsea.”
Perez played a crucial role in the FA Cup replay win in midweek, stepping off the bench to fire in the clincher in a 4-2 win at Ewood Park.
Now, the Spaniard is hoping that the extra time victory will act as a spur for the rest of the season.
“Winning gives you some confidence, and we have that winning feeling back,” he added. “That’s a positive.”
Neil Warnock’s Cardiff side travel to St James’s Park sitting one place and one point above the Magpies, meaning a positive result would see United leapfrog their rivals.
To do that, though, they’ll have to change their form on their home patch. Of Newcastle’s 18 Premier league points, 11 have come on their travels and just seven in front of their own fans, with eight defeats at Gallowgate, including against Brighton and Wolves.
It’s a record that the Magpies need to rectify if they are to stand a realistic chance of avoiding the drop.
Perez believes putting teams under extreme pressure from the first whistle is vital to making St James’s a fortress again.
He said: “We have to make the other team feel the pressure, making them feel uncomfortable, press them as much as we can, and go for it.
“We have to believe in ourselves. We have enough quality to win games and, in this case, and especially in this league, you feel uncomfortable when you are put under pressure when the other team is at it.
“This is what we need to try and do in order to change our form at home because it hasn’t been good enough.”