EVERTON’S fans sang “going down, going down, going down”.
You just have to hope nobody translated that chant for signing-to-be Mathieu Debuchy, who watched Newcastle United’s 2-1 loss to Everton from the directors’ box at St James’s Park.
The result left the club even deeper in trouble in the Premier League.
But Debuchy, presumably, saw enough to convince him that Newcastle can pull away from the relegation zone over the coming weeks and months.
The only problem is that they’ll almost certainly have to do it without leading scorer Demba Ba, on the verge of joining Chelsea.
And the boos at the final whistle suggest the club’s fans still need convincing themselves after a desperate few months on the pitch which has tested their loyalty.
As Ba and his representatives thrashed out the financial terms of his £7.5m move to Stamford Bridge in London, United got down to business on the pitch on Tyneside.
The pre-match hope among fans was that Ba’s Senegalese countryman Papiss Demba Cisse, pushed to the fringes of manager Alan Pardew’s attack, would come to the fore.
Cisse wasn’t restored to his favoured central role – that was handed to long-serving Shola Ameobi – but it didn’t matter.
Cisse was up and running two minutes into the game. Goalkeeper Tim Krul’s long ball upfield was missed by everyone on its way to the striker.
He got under it, and his header looped over a helpless Tim Howard, who was off his line.
St James’s Park erupted as it had for so many Ba goals over the past 18 months.
Krul stopped a Leighton Baines free-kick at the other end in a fraught opening few minutes, which also saw Gabriel Obertan cause problems down Everton’s left-hand side.
However, for the most part, United were on the back foot as Everton, dominant in possession, pressed for a goal.
There were chances for Newcastle – James Perch hit the post from a Vurnon Anita free-kick, and Ameobi had a strong penalty claim against Phil Neville – but there was an inevitability about Baines’s equaliser two minutes before the break, with David Moyes’s team having dominated the half.
Pardew’s side had defended stoically, but there was nothing Krul – who superbly denied Steven Pienaar earlier in the half – could do about Baines’s 30-yard free-kick, which was drilled through a hole in United’s wall.
The decision for the set-piece itself had been questionable – Coloccini was penalised for a challenge on Marouane Fellaini – but Baines’s strike wasn’t at all in doubt.
It was a stunning, stunning free-kick, and Pardew’s side, so close to getting to the interval 1-0 ahead, never recovered.
Ameobi poked the ball just a couple of inches wide of Howard’s post as the hour-mark approached.
And a Nigerian was to get the next goal – but it wasn’t Newcastle’s frontman.
Fellaini spread the ball to Nikica Jelavic on the left, and his low ball found Victor Anichebe, who had been on the pitch less than two minutes.
Anichebe lost marker Davide Santon on his run to the box, and the striker prodded the ball past Krul.
Pardew sent on Gael Bigirimana for Obertan, who had faded after a bright opening few minutes. The change saw Newcastle go to a 4-4-2 formation, with Cisse joining Ameobi in attack.
Anita, back in the side after recovering from the ankle injury he suffered in the Boxing Day defeat to Manchester United broke forward in the 68th minute and delivered a fine cross for Cisse, whose header struck John Heitinga before Howard saved the follow-up.
Newcastle rallied in the last 20 minutes, but chances were few and far between.
Sammy Ameobi and Nile Ranger followed Bigirimana on to the pitch, but most of United’s play was easily dealt with by the visiting defence.
The contrast with the result a year ago – Newcastle opened 2012 with a convincing home win over Manchester United – couldn’t have been greater.
Debuchy’s imminent arrival will surely help the club’s cause.
But the team needs more help at both ends of the pitch, and quickly, if it is to climb the league table.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: KRUL 8; Perch 6 (Ranger, 87), Williamson 6, Coloccini 6, Santon 6; Tiote 6 (Sammy Ameobi, 80), Anita 6; Cisse 6, Marveaux 6, Obertan 6 (Bigirimana, 66, 6); Shola Ameobi 6. Subs not used: Elliot, Ferguson, Tavernier, Abeid.
EVERTON: Howard; Jagielka, Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Neville, Osman; Naysmith (Anichebe, 58), Fellaini, Pienaar; Jelavic (Oviedo, 88). Subs not used: Mucha, Hitzlsperger, Geye, Vellios, Duff.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Tim Krul. Gamely kept Everton at bay until Leighton Baines’s free-kick.
HIGHLIGHT: Papiss Demba Cisse’s goal - hopefully, there’ll be a lot more from the striker after Demba Ba’s departure.
LOWLIGHT: Newcastle’s defending for the second goal - it was all too easy for Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe.
Goals: Cisse 2, Baines 43, Anichebe 60
Bookings: Cisse 41, Heitinga 47, Williamson 53, Tiote 68, Pienaar 80
Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)