Domestic bliss keeps Magpies on hot streak
Newcastle Utd 2 West Brom 1
According to Alan Pardew, the main factor behind Newcastle United's resurgence this season is the club's absence from the Europa League.
There is a certain irony, therefore, in the potential reward for their improvement being a return to the competition they regard with such disdain.
Last season, Newcastle were unable to cope with the increased fixture demands of Europe's secondary competition and the disruption caused by the schedule of Thursday night matches followed by a domestic fixture on a Sunday afternoon.
It is no coincidence that the form of Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City has suffered a similar downturn this term and, with his side having briefly returned to the top five after a fourth successive victory in what has been a perfect November, Pardew has called for a radical restructuring of the programme for clubs competing in the Europa League.
"I still think that the Europa League needs to change for clubs in the Premier League," the Newcastle boss said. "If they are going to insist we play on a Thursday then we have to play our subsequent league game on a Monday. I think that would be fair."
The issue will become more pressing if Newcastle continue in their rich vein of form, with their latest success leaving them seven points clear of where they were at the same stage of last season.
Yoan Gouffran's header gave them a first-half lead and, although Chris Brunt levelled shortly after the interval, a wonderful long-range strike from Moussa Sissoko proved decisive.
Both Gouffran and Sissoko moved to St James' Park in January, and after struggling to make an impact in the second half of last season, the pair have made major contributions to Newcastle's recent upturn.
"This is where I hoped we would get to when I joined," Sissoko said.
"Last season was a really difficult time for Newcastle, but when we arrived we had a mission, and our mission was to make sure we got the points to stay up." (© Daily Telegraph, London)