Georginio Wijnaldum has admitted Newcastle deserved the criticism which came their way as they plummeted back into the Premier League relegation zone.
The Magpies found themselves with their backs against the wall after humbling defeats by Leicester and Crystal Palace sent them back into the bottom three after they thought they had turned a corner.
However on Sunday they summoned up a performance of real character to beat high-flying Liverpool 2-0 at St James’ Park and rekindle belief that head coach Steve McClaren can lead them away from trouble.
Wijnaldum told nufcTV: “Of course it’s hard, criticism is always hard to get, but a lot of the criticism, to my mind, was right because we didn’t have good performances.
“You can lose games, but the way we were losing games was really bad because the performance was not good and we didn’t do it as a team.
“I don’t want to say that everyone wasn’t giving their all – I think everyone did – but we didn’t do it as a team. If everyone plays their own game, then it is difficult to win the game.
“But we have learnt from that and today, we did it differently. We fought as a team and fought to get the points, and that’s why it’s a big win.”
Newcastle’s improvement could hardly have been better timed with McClaren facing rumours that he had two games in which to save his job, although it is understood there is no appetite within the boardroom to dispense with the services of a man who has only been in the post for six months.
His buzzword in the run-up to the game had been “confidence”, a trait which had proved sadly lacking in the two previous outings, but after a nervy start, Newcastle found a coherence and a stomach for the fight before eventually producing the quality they needed to get the job done.
They got their reward with 29 minutes gone when Wijnaldum collected Moussa Sissoko’s cross and worked his way into position before firing home via a deflection off defender Martin Skrtel.
Asked if it was his goal rather than an own goal, the Holland international replied: “Yes, of course, because I shot on goal.”
The Magpies enjoyed a further slice of good fortune when an offside flag harshly ruled out an Alberto Moreno strike, and they took full advantage when Sissoko and Wijnaldum combined once again in injury time for the latter to seal the win with a deft chip.