7:38pm Sunday 13th May 2012
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew hailed his players for their efforts over the 2011-12 Barclays Premier League season after this afternoon's final-day 3-1 defeat at Everton.
The Magpies went into the game looking to round off a hugely impressive campaign by securing a top-four finish, but after being undone by goals from Steven Pienaar, Nikica Jelavic and Johnny Heitinga they ended up staying fifth, outside the Champions League spots.
As it turned out, with fourth-placed Tottenham and third-placed Arsenal both winning today to hang on to their positions, even a victory would not have been enough for the Tyneside outfit and Pardew - who was named the top-flight's manager of the season on Friday - said after his team's loss: ''I can't fault the players.
''They have been absolutely magnificent to a man. All my staff, everybody - we've had a real good go at it.
''You look at the quality of teams like Everton and Chelsea (who have finished seventh and sixth respectively) and you say 'how have we finished fifth'? It is amazing really.
''We are very pleased with that and we look forward to next year.''
Pienaar opened the scoring in the 16th minute with a deflected effort and Everton went 2-0 up in the 27th when Jelavic finished smartly at the second attempt after goalkeeper Tim Krul had blocked his initial shot.
Heitinga then netted a 65th-minute header and although Tony Hibbert scored an own-goal eight minutes later, it proved little more than a consolation for Newcastle.
The visitors were unquestionably second-best but Pardew felt his side did their utmost to get back into the game, and admitted their ultimate failure to get anything out of it meant that, in the end, he was actually pleased Tottenham and Arsenal had won.
''We have got a great spirit in there - never-say-die,'' he said.
''Even against an Everton side who were fabulous today in the first half, at 2-0 down we still gave it a right go.
''Unfortunately it wasn't enough, but I'm pleased Arsenal and Spurs both won today, because it would have hurt more. I congratulate those two, because they probably deserve to be above us.''
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