SO Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew has his get-out-of-jail card for the club’s latest derby defeat.
Back in April it was the energy-sapping Europa League exit three days earlier that triggered the Magpies’ 3-0 home surrender to Sunderland.
This time around, promised Alan, with United deciding continental trips are overrated, there would be no such excuse.
Until that is an innocuous 50-50 decision on the halfway line went the home side’s way with the award of a questionable free kick.
Fifteen seconds and four passes later and £8m Liverpool flop Fabio Borini blasted Sunderland to a slightly fortuitous victory.
I say “slightly” because Newcastle, despite their second-half territorial dominance, rarely looked like scoring.
Indeed home keeper Keiren Westwood only had two real saves to make.
Mathieu Debuchy’s equaliser he couldn’t stop and the other was from his own centre-half with just minutes left when John O’Shea tried to give the score a more realistic look.
For all the result was harsh, Newcastle were very much the authors of their own misfortune.
They started poorly, went downhill after that and failed to capitalise on their mediocre hosts’ nerves when they finally got their act together.
Questionable free kicks are also awarded on the halfway line virtually every weekend and rarely result in goals some 40 yards away.
And so new Sunderland boss Gus Poyet’s curse over Newcastle United as both player and manager continues.
I cannot help feeling, however, that his honeymoon period may be as brief as his predecessor’s was.
Sunderland are unlikely to keep Sunday’s intensity going in more mundane fixtures and their squad lack the general ability to mimic the admittedly attractive passing game developed by their latest Messiah in his previous post at Brighton.
Whether midtable Newcastle will join them in the relegation dogfight is still a moot point.
At least Pardew’s team have two home games in a week with which to erase Sunday’s defeat.
Wednesday’s Capital One Cup clash with Manchester City and Saturday’s Premier League date with Chelsea should provide two routine victories.
For the opposition, that is.
Things are likely to get worse on Tyneside on before they turn any better.
– GAVIN LEDWITH