Friday 02 March 2012
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew says he wants to use Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland as a springboard for a strong finish to the Barclays Premier League campaign.
The Magpies have had a season to remember so far and are currently sixth in the League table, only three points behind fifth-placed Chelsea.
But Pardew's men have stumbled of late, losing 5-0 away at Tottenham while they failed to hold on to a two-goal lead against Wolves last week, eventually drawing 2-2.
"We have got to make sure that we come out with credit in terms of our performance and the result"
- Alan Pardew
"We aren't firing on all cylinders at the moment, I think our fans know that," said Pardew.
"We got over the line against Villa when it was a bit tight, we didn't play very well at Tottenham and played well for 45 minutes against Wolves.
"We need to come into some form, really, if we are going to challenge the top half of the division, and I am looking to do that on Sunday.
"The focus this week, everywhere we have been in town, is about the derby. We have got to make sure that we come out with credit in terms of our performance and the result."
Newcastle may have won the corresponding fixture 5-1 last season, as well as beating Sunderland 1-0 at the Stadium of Light back in August, but Pardew says he is taking nothing for granted this weekend.
"On Sunday we do need the fans," he added. "This Sunderland team really do work you hard. Martin [O'Neill] has gone in there and got them working as a unit and making it difficult.
"We need that 12th man and our fans on it to make that place so difficult to play.
"When everything settles down then you have got to play strongly and with a big heart and a cool head"
- Martin O'Neill
"At the start of the game we have got to make sure that we put something on that pitch that gets our fans backing us for 90 minutes and if they do, it's going to make it difficult."
Sunderland, who have been resurgent under the guidance of manager Martin O'Neill, have also hit a sticky patch in the League, losing to both Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion.
The Black Cats have not claimed victory on Tyneside since 2000, and O'Neill is fully aware of what a win will mean to Sunderland fans.
"It's a very, very big game and there's no getting away from that," he said. "It's extremely important, for every reason under the sun. It's as big as they come.
"You want the team to perform and if we perform as well as we have done, last weekend apart, then we'll give ourselves a chance but we will need to be really strong.
"We will be trying hard to get something from the game. We will need to apply ourselves better than we did last week – to be fair that was unusual for us.
"It will be a very big occasion but when everything settles down, if it does, then you have got to play strongly and with a big heart and a cool head, that might be difficult in the cauldron of a derby game like this."