VURNON Anita has urged Newcastle United's fans to "keep the faith" that hard work will pull the team out of relegation trouble.
Monday’s 2-1 defeat at Fulham left the Magpies with 17 points from 16 Premier League games this season.
A ratio of a point per game might just be enough to see Newcastle emerge unscathed from the relegation battle manager Alan Pardew has admitted his side now finds itself in.
But after a thrilling fifth-placed finish last season, the club had far loftier aspirations.
“Of course, because we want to win games and our gameplan was to get our first away win (of the season) on Monday night,” admitted the versatile Dutchman (pictured left).
“We worked hard for it but it didn’t happen.
“But we must keep our faith and work hard. It will come if we do that.
“We won last week and we wanted to get our first away win but it didn’t happen. We must keep working hard to get that win. Fulham were sharper than us at set-plays. We must work on that and go on to the next game.
“We started slowly in the first 30 minutes and Fulham were aggressive.
“After that we bossed the game, I think. We played well but we didn’t win.” Fabricio Coloccini hit the woodwork with the score at 2-1, though Newcastle were unconvincing on the ball, and poor defensively at Craven Cottage.
Hugo Rodallega’s winning goal came when Coloccini failed to pick him up at a Damien Duff free-kick.
Even with a Europa League campaign which has pitted them against four relative minnows, Newcastle are yet to experience an away victory in any competition since May’s 2-0 win at Chelsea, months before Anita joined from Ajax.
That failing only adds to the pressure at home, where Newcastle’s record is a far more respectable seven wins from 12 matches this season.
Further spice comes from the identity of their next visitors – a Manchester City side whose last two games saw them knocked out of Europe, then beaten by title rivals United in Sunday’s derby.
“We must win games but we haven’t done that a lot,” Anita acknowledged.
“On Saturday against City we must go at full strength to win the game at home.
“At home we know we have to give everything. The fans expect that we put teams under full pressure but I don’t know how we’ll approach it yet. I’m going to wait to see what our game plan will be to surprise City at home.
“They lost in the last minute against Man United so I expect them to be aggressive to try to win the game because they don’t want Manchester United to pull away from them at the top.
“They will come full of determination but we must look at ourselves and bring our A game.
“We will be at home, so it’s going to be a great game.
“The crowd behind us can help us and I hope we can do our best on Saturday.”
One of the positives from Monday’s performance was the return to fitness of playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa.
The Frenchman has been arguably Newcastle’s best player this season, and his hamstring strain, picked up at home to Maritimo in the Europa League, compounded the injury to compatriot Yohan Cabaye.
Ben Arfa scored Newcastle’s goal at Craven Cottage and some were surprised to see him substituted for Shola Ameobi as the Magpies chased the game with 20 minutes left, and with Ben Arfa in no apparent discomfort.
Pardew, though, explained he was trying to protect the 25-year-old.
“He was short of match fitness, and I thought he struggled in the early part of the game to pick up the pace,” said the Newcastle boss.
“However, he had some great moments. He was tiring and I had to remove him.”