Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew challenges his players

TEAM CHALLENGE ... Alan Pardew.
TEAM CHALLENGE ... Alan Pardew.

ALAN Pardew’s challenged his Newcastle United side to pull away from relegation trouble – by claiming back-to-back home victories.

Newcastle have lost five of their last seven Premier League games.

And that dismal run of results has left the club perilously close to the bottom three ahead of Saturday’s home game against champions Manchester City.

That fixture is followed by another game at St James’s Park – against basement club Queens Park Rangers on December 22 – and six points is Pardew’s target.

However, beating second-placed City – who won 2-0 on Tyneside in May as they closed in on the league title – won’t be straight-forward given the wealth of talent in Roberto Mancini’s ranks.

“We’ve got the Man City and QPR games – they loom large,” Pardew told the Gazette. “And there’s no reason why we can’t win both of those.”

Newcastle were beaten 2-1 at Craven Cottage by Fulham on Monday night.

While Martin Jol’s side had the better start, Pardew was heartened by his team’s attacking play, if not its defending, in the second half, when Fabricio Coloccini and Demba Ba had shots cleared off the line.

Hatem Ben Arfa scored United’s goal, and the forward’s return from a three-week spell out with a hamstring injury was another positive for Pardew.

“We’ve got to go and attack Man City,” he said. “If we play at that level in the second half, we’ve got a chance.”

The QPR game is followed by tough festive fixtures against league leaders Manchester United at Old Trafford on Boxing Day and Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on December 29.

And fourth-placed Everton visit St James’s Park on January 2.