By Kristan Heneage
Throughout the summer we are reviewing the 2012/13 campaign, a season of highs and lows which saw Newcastle thrive in Europe but struggle domestically. The third instalment covers December and January, which included a thrilling pair of games at Manchester United and Arsenal and the arrival of a host of new faces...
The month began with three points, three goals, and a stunning first career goal as Wigan Athletic ventured to the North East. With the visitors down to ten men after Maynor Figueroa was adjudged to have felled Papiss Cisse in the box, Demba Ba grabbed his first from the penalty spot before poaching a second. Victory was sealed with a special strike from Gael Bigirimana, his first career goal leaving the humble teenager speechless after the game.
Completing their Europa League schedule, Newcastle then travelled to Bordeaux knowing qualification had already been secured. Opting to name a relatively young side, experience told as Cheick Diabaté notched a brace to give Bordeaux a 2-0 win.
After a brief trip to central Europe, it was a case of London calling for Alan Pardew's side as they headed to Fulham on a cold Monday night.
Falling behind to a somewhat fortuitous strike from Steve Sidwell, Hatem Ben Arfa leveled things up early in the second half with a delightful strike from distance. However it would turn out to be just a consolation goal as Hugo Rodallega helped Fulham regain the lead and consign Newcastle to their sixth defeat in seven visits to Craven Cottage.
Allowed to enjoy home comforts in their final two games before Christmas, Manchester City were the first visitors to Tyneside as they showed just why they were reigning Premier League champions. Up by two at half time, Ba headed home his 11th goal of the season to reduce the deficit, before Yaya Toure secured all three points for Roberto Mancini's side.
One week later and the weather took centre stage as a torrential downpour overcame St. James' Park. With visitors Queens Park Rangers in desperate need of points, the game appeared to be heading for a stalemate, until a moment of supreme composure from Shola Ameobi gifted the Magpies all three points and the veteran striker his first Premier League goal of the season.
Then tasked with visits to both Old Trafford and the Emirates in the space of three days, the Magpies would score seven goals yet amazingly come away with no points. It began on Boxing Day with an enthralling game against Manchester United. Gifted the lead with James Perch's first Newcastle goal, Pardew's side would take the lead three times before ultimately finding themselves on the end of a 4-3 defeat.
Finishing 2012 in London, a trip to Arsenal to face a rampant Theo Walcott saw the striker collect the match ball and Newcastle on the wrong end of a 7-3 defeat. A pulsating end to end affair, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger gave credit to the Magpies afterwards. "The game was not as comfortable as the result indicates," he said. "We suffered for big parts in the game, especially in the first half when I felt we played with the handbrake, we were a bit nervous, not free of the chest."
Goal of the month: Gael Bigirimana v Wigan Athletic
A sublime strike from the former Coventry City midfielder put the gloss on a solid performance from the home side. Clearly overcome with emotion as he collapsed to his knees, Bigirimana revealed afterwards he had originally planned a goalscoring dance with teammate Papiss Cisse.
A quieter month for the Magpies saw just five fixtures across January as they earned a short break from Europa League action.
Beginning with the visit of Everton, it took Papiss Cisse just two minutes to break his duck for 2013 as the hosts got off to a fantastic start. Pegged back on the stroke of half time thanks to a wonderful freekick from Leighton Baines, Victor Anichebe added a second as the Magpies began life without Demba Ba ahead of his impending transfer to Chelsea.
Then it was a case of déjà vu as the FA Cup saw the Magpies travel to Brighton and Hove Albion for the second season in a row. Facing a well drilled home side, Gus Poyet's men bested a ten-man Magpies side following Shola Ameobi's harsh dismissal for his second yellow card midway through the second half.
Announcing their first January arrival when Mathieu Debuchy joined from Lille, the French international made his Premier League debut in the goalless draw at Norwich City before his first game at St. James' Park a week later against newly promoted Reading.
On course for the victory after Yohan Cabaye's sublime free-kick, a six minute brace from Adam Le Fondre, gifted Reading a shock victory on Tyneside.
Sensing the need for strengthening, the Magpies welcomed an influx of French talent as four new arrivals made their way through the doors of the club's Benton training base. Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haïdara, Moussa Sissoko and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa concluded a frantic week at the negotiating table for the club as Alan Pardew's request for new faces was met.
Still in need of a victory, the manager would hand debuts to three of his new quartet against Aston Villa as the club continued to search for their first away win of the season. And it would take Sissoko just 19 minutes to make an impact for his new side, as his inch perfect pass set Cisse away to calmly slot the ball home.
One quickly became two just after the half hour as Cabaye showed his class with a delightful half volley past a helpless Brad Guzan. Forced to endure a nervy second half following Christian Benteke's 49th minute penalty, Pardew could not hide his delight at earning a vital three points and finishing the first month of 2013 on a positive note.
Goal of the month: Yohan Cabaye v Aston Villa
Beginning the year with a pair of sumptuous goals for the Magpies, Cabaye's strike at Villa Park typified the kind of quality the Frenchman can produce. Calmly taking Jonas Gutierrez's cross down on the edge of the box, his bending strike silenced the home crowd and set his side on their way to a much needed victory.