ALAN Pardew’s relationship with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is being tested - with the club in freefall.
Pardew’s beleaguered side lost a club-record fifth successive Premier League game on Saturday.
Swansea came from behind to win 2-1 at St James’s Park thanks to two goals from Wilfried Bony.
United remain ninth in the division, but Stoke City and Crystal Palace, in 10th and 11th place respectively, are now within striking distance with three games left to play this season.
Pardew claimed his relationship with Ashley was strengthened in the aftermath of his headbutt on Hull City’s David Meyler, for which he was handed a seven-match ban.
However, Ashley, linked with a move for Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis over the weekend, had demanded a top-10 finish from Pardew this term, but the club’s once-promising campaign has unravelled alarmingly in recent months.
After a run of one win and six defeats, Pardew is looking increasingly vulnerable given the team’s dismal form and the dissent on Tyneside.
Fans had called for Pardew - who will be back on the touchline for the club’s next game, the April 28 visit to fourth-placed Arsenal - to be sacked during the club’s defeat to Stoke City the previous weekend.
While there was no repeat of those chants at St James’s Park, his players were booed off the pitch for the third home game in a row.
However, Pardew - who will meet Ashley for talks at the end of the campaign - was grateful that supporters didn’t turn on him - or his players - during the Swansea game.
“The fans were brilliant - they didn’t give us a hard time or make it a negative stadium,” Pardew said.
“They were with us, and I thank them for that. It would have been easy to go down that line.
“I’m just so disappointed that we didn’t get a point or any positive result.”
It remains to be seen whether Ashley’s backing for Pardew, which was steadfast in the wake of the headbutt, has wavered given recent performances and results.
Certainly, Pardew - who can point to the January sale of Yohan Cabaye and the recent injury to Loic Remy as mitigating factors - can expect to face some uncomfortable questions.
However, the 52-year-old - who is 18 months into a seven-year contract - felt his team deserved something from the Swansea match, decided by an injury-time penalty from Bony.
“It was a cruel blow, unfortunately,” said Pardew, who lost strikers Papiss Demba Cisse and Luuk de Jong to injury in the first half.
“We had a couple of early blows with Luuk and Papiss. Our gameplan went out of the window a little bit, and (Swansea) came here and just wanted a result.
“I felt for the players and the club. At a professional level, that’s a cruel blow conceding those goals at the end of each half.
“For large portions of the game, Swansea sat deep and controlled the ball, but didn’t really hurt us.
“It was fairly comfortable. They had a couple of breakaways. For us, it’s hard to talk about, really.
“I don’t want to make excuses. I just think it was desperately unlucky that they conceded that last goal.”