Newcastle manager Alan Pardew accused Ashley Young of going to ground too easily after watching the Aston Villa winger win the free-kick which ultimately sank his side at Villa Park.
Young went down under a challenge from Newcastle captain Joey Barton and the resulting set-piece saw the England man swing the ball in for James Collins to glance in the only goal of the game after 24 minutes as Villa clinched three vital points in their bid to avoid relegation.
Pardew said: “Young is the most fouled player in the division. We kept saying, you touch him and he goes over, and that was in Joey’s mind.
“It was something we talked about. He hardly touched him and down he went again. I didn’t think it was a free-kick. Joey is going to argue decisions and make his opinion felt if he thinks he’s been wronged.”
Pardew felt his side’s challenge was hampered by the absence of key players, including striker Shola Ameobi who was a late withdrawal and is to have a scan on his knee tomorrow. He added: “We were committed against a nervous Villa but we missed some core players and that affected us. The injury to Ameobi, who was man of the match last week, was a bit of a blow. “We’re going to scan him tomorrow on his knee and we hope he comes through that.” Pardew also admits that the squad will need strengthening for next season.
He said: “We’ve given a committed display but we don’t want to be in this position next year where the squad looks small.
“We need senior players on that bench that can come on and affect the game. That was costly for us today.
“I would like to have caused a few more problems to a nervous side. We could not get enough pressure on them to make that nervousness show even more.”
Villa boss Gerard Houllier was quick to defend Young over Pardew’s comments. He said: “Even the fourth official said it was a free-kick. He definitely didn’t go down cheaply. Ashley is a tricky player. He is like an eel.”
Houllier felt his side were worthy of a win which lifts them five points clear of the relegation zone. He said: “We deserved it. We showed desire, commitment and battling qualities, which are a must in this sort of situation. Maybe we weren’t relaxed enough at times but I think that’s down to the pressure. When you have pressure, the team’s fighting spirit plays a big part. You can’t have egos or someone who has lost the plot.
“The team performance comes above everything else. I thought they all worked for each other. There’s a distinction to make between working together and working for each other.”