Newcastle boss Steve McClaren admits “the pressure is still on”, but insists performances are “getting nearer” to where he wants them to be.
The Magpies belatedly demonstrated what they are capable of last weekend when they came within four minutes of victory over Barclays Premier League champions Chelsea before having to settle for a 2-2 draw.
McClaren’s men ended a run of four successive defeats in the process and quietened some of the criticism which had been coming their way after a distinctly ordinary start to the new head coach’s reign.
However, he insists the pressure is still on as he prepares for a perhaps even more difficult trip to Manchester City on Saturday.
McClaren said: “The pressure will always be there. There is pressure to perform at the standard we want.
“You should have that pressure and fear. That makes you concentrated. We will need that to get anything at the Etihad.
“Consistency is now what we are after from that level of performance against Chelsea. That is how we want to play, the first half. We fought all the way and defended well in the second half.
“We have been inconsistent from the start of the season, some good, some bad. Seven games in we are getting closer to our style and level of play.
“We have always said it can happen quickly, sometimes it is smooth. But this has not been a smooth one. It has been up and down. We are getting closer.”
McClaren has a doubt over midfielder Jack Colback, who started against Chelsea after shaking off a calf problem, but lasted only 54 minutes before succumbing to a hamstring strain which is threatening his participation at the Etihad Stadium.
That could open the door for the fit-again Cheick Tiote to make his first appearance since New Year’s Day, although there are other options.
McClaren accepts his side will have to work even harder this weekend to emerge with anything to show for their efforts, but having established the benchmark against Jose Mourinho’s men, he is expecting them to do just that.
He said: “We start with attitude. That has to be right every game or you don’t win. That is where consistency comes from, willingness to work, courage to play and to be organised with discipline.”