Tottenham Hotspur 2 Newcastle United 0
NEWCASTLE United served up another Christmas turkey to leave Alan Pardew under no illusions about the size of the task facing him in 2011.
It has been a year of living excitingly, dynamically and dangerously at St James’ Park but with this festive flop against the ten men of Tottenham it ended in somewhat familiar territory.
Not since 2002 and the days of Sir Bobby Robson’s Brat Pack have Newcastle toasted a victory in one of their pair of post-Christmas fixtures and in truth they never looked like ending that barren run against a Spurs side that proved far too wily for them – even when they were playing with ten men for nearly half an hour.
For while there was effort and endeavour aplenty in this honest display, it was nigh on impossible to escape the conclusion that United look depressingly limited in comparison to a side with the free-wheeling swagger of Tottenham.
That is not to say Pardew was disgraced by his side at White Hart Lane.
They will not be the first team twisted inside out by Gareth Bale and their counter-attacking game plan appeared effective for parts of this feisty contest.
Indeed, a United side shorn of their best defender and midfield talisman threw a blanket over Tottenham for 45 encouraging minutes, frustrating a side of Champions League pedigree with a resolute rearguard effort.
But when the time came to grab the game by the scruff of its neck after Younes Kaboul’s moment of madness it was Tottenham who prompted and pressed while Pardew’s side backed off in strangely submissive style.
Presumably this disappointing festive repeat will only strengthen the new manager’s resolve when the transfer window swings open this weekend.
United have talked of limited recruitment on a budget tighter than your average post-Christmas waistband but the dearth of options below their recognised performers was laid bare in this corner of North London.
Kevin Nolan’s suspension meant an overhaul of sorts for Pardew, who brought Alan Smith back to strengthen a five-man midfield that sat deep with the intention of strangling Tottenham’s supply line.
Joey Barton was pushed into a more advanced role while Jose Enrique’s sore hamstring also meant James Perch returned to the starting line-up to do battle with Aaron Lennon.
And to be fair to both, they acquitted themselves with distinction considering their lack of playing time recently.
But in truth, the paucity of proven Premier League performers on the bench told you everything you needed to know about the options available to Pardew.
While Harry Redknapp could call on five internationals in reserve, Newcastle’s four striking understudies have mustered only two top flight goals between them in their careers.
Only substantial investment from Mike Ashley over the next 31 days will remedy that in 2011.