Alan Pardew insists injuries are to blame for Newcastle's late-season slide down the Premier League table.
The Magpies sat in sixth place on Boxing Day, with the highest points total since the 2001-02 season, but hopes of a lofty finish were derailed by a run of just three wins in the last 10 games.
Newcastle have been forced to cope without injured trio Tim Krul, Mathieu Debuchy and Loic Remy, while the sale of Yohan Cabaye put further strain on the squad.
There was little to admire in last Saturday's 4-0 defeat at Southampton and Pardew admits his side are limping towards the line in the closing weeks of the campaign.
"The mid-season was really strong for us and the injuries to Loic and the transfer of Cabaye have impacted on our quality, there's no doubt about that," said Pardew.
"We are grinding towards the end unfortunately, and that's not what we want. We want to be a lot more easy on the eye, and lot more fluent in what we are doing than we are.
"But we have become a very functional team now, and that's what has really got to get us through until such time as Loic is back and Mathieu is back and Tim is back."
At the same time as Newcastle's mauling at St Mary's, Norwich were suffering a 3-0 defeat at Swansea, which prompted the Canaries players to offer to reimburse fans.
Asked if his players might consider doing the same, Pardew said: "I have been in many games where you have long, long trips and had very, very difficult afternoons.
"As far as I am concerned, our fans are the best in the world and to give them that performance wasn't acceptable and we aim to put it right on the pitch.
"I am just urging my players to put in a better performance than they did on Saturday, that's the most important thing to me.
"You get disappointments in the Premier League, and we have had them before.
"The matter is very, very simple: we need a reaction to that performance in terms of energy levels, continuity in the team and a desire to win the game.
"Desire is all in the Premier League."