Steve McClaren felt he witnessed what could be the start of Newcastle’s survival fight take shape at Stoke, despite a 1-0 defeat.
The Magpies were back in action after an 18-day hiatus and were nine minutes away from claiming a point that would have moved them out of the bottom three before Xherdan Shaqiri fired in a 25-yard winner in the Potters’ 1-0 win.
Even then McClaren’s men almost came away with a point when Seydou Doumbia saw a stoppage-time attempt turned away by Jack Butland, who had not been troubled up until that point.
Newcastle have not won on their travels since a trip to Tottenham on December 13 and, while they left Staffordshire empty-handed, McClaren thought they produced an improved showing from their 5-1 loss to Chelsea last time out.
“We didn’t deserve that,” McClaren declared. “Jack Butland has become a bit of a curse this season for us. Four magnificent saves at St James’ and one at the end there which denied us a point. That’s the difference at the present moment.
“But, the last 18 days, we talked a lot about what we need to do and I think we started that process tonight in terms of attitude, work-rate and becoming harder to beat. I thought we were very organised, very disciplined.
“We stifled, frustrated Stoke – so much so that I think they had one shot in the second half and it’s a goal. Treacherous conditions and I thought we deserved to fight our way to at least a point.
“If you had seen the performance at Chelsea compared to this evening…(it’s) most definitely (an improvement). I thought there were good individual performances, a good team performance – you could see there was a determination, a work-rate for each other and a spirit there.
“This game’s cruel and it’s been cruel to us again. Dust yourselves down and we go again on Saturday.”