All about context
The performance was far from a masterclass. But it also was a colossal improvement from last week's unmitigated disaster.
In fact, you could argue Newcastle showed its backbone on the road against an awkward opponent. Newcastle defended solidly for the majority of the match — there were several worrisome moments in the second half — and, were goal line technology in place in the Premier League, would have led through Papiss Cisse's first-half effort that Winston Reid attempted to clear off the line.
However, once Aston Villa and Wigan snatched late winning goals, Newcastle's result suddenly looked pretty damaging. Should Sunderland beat or draw with Stoke on Monday and Wigan beat Swansea on Tuesday, Newcastle will occupy the final relegation place entering next week's trip to Loftus Road.
O Captain! My Captain!
How Newcastle has missed Fabricio Coloccini. With its captain back in the heart of the defense, Newcastle's backline looked notably more settled.
Apart from Mike Williamson, Newcastle doesn't possess a center back who can even hope to challenge a player like Andy Carroll in the air (and Williamson wasn't used for obvious reasons). But Coloccini and Steven Taylor coped adequately with West Ham's aerial assault. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa bounced back from last week's embarrassment with a solid outing at left back, while Danny Simpson was decent enough at right back.
The biggest plus to take away from Saturday was that, by and large, Newcastle stifled West Ham from creating much in the way of premium scoring chances. Considering Newcastle's defensive record this season, that's an accomplishment.
Jekyll & Hyde
Why can't Newcastle manage to control play for two consecutive halves? That's the £60 million question, isn't it?
A growing segment of the fan base will place the blame squarely on manager Alan Pardew. Regardless of whether or not you subscribe to that theory, we can all agree on this much: It's up to Pardew to fix it, and he's running out of time.
In the first half of this one, Newcastle drove the play, with Hatem Ben Arfa looking dangerous and Yohan Cabaye spraying threatening balls forward (including the one that should have led to the opening goal from Cisse).
After the break, though, Ben Arfa's influence waned, Cabaye seemed to disappear altogether, and Cisse was hardly involved. And unfortunately, Newcastle doesn't seem to have another way of attacking when Cabaye isn't sewing things together in the center of the midfield.
Unlike last season, the team doesn't look dangerous on the counter and it's not built for playing direct, either. Rip Pardew for bringing on Shola Ameobi for Ben Arfa all you want, but he doesn't have anything else that resembles a physical presence up front. Or a dangerous winger off the bench, which meant Dan Gosling replaced Yoan Gouffran when the latter was battling a cramp. Vurnon Anita would have been a more sensible option, but he's not exactly a creative offensive force, either.