Rafa Benitez is the man.
With daft talk of today’s game against Crystal Palace being a stroll, it was left to the Newcastle boss to keep a cool head and drag United over the line again.
Rafa once again went for a negative looking formation and once again it was proved necessary, as Palace dominated the first half and Newcastle needed every bit of their new found defensive resolve to keep it level.
A half-time team talk had the players on the up for the second half and from kick-off Newcastle were the better team, having fought off Palace’s best efforts in that opening period.
After the game Rafa Benitez reflected on yet another job well done, unbeaten in four and eight points from a possible 12.
The United Manager says he and the players will ‘enjoy this weekend’ before setting their sights on Aston Villa.
This is one of the rare occasions this season when supporters won’t begrudge the players their well earned rest.
All of them looked to be giving everything and for us simple souls, that is all we ask for.
Two moments decided the game and Rafa Benitez says he was ‘really pleased’ for the players that Townsend’s free-kick flew into the net and Karl Darlow repulsed Yohan Cabaye’s penalty.
The United boss declaring he hopes Darlow doesn’t need to face another spot kick in these final two games, I’ll join him on that one as the nerves were horrendous as you expected the net to bulge and Newcastle’s hopes of survival crushed at the same time.
“We still have to play another two games.
“We will enjoy this weekend because we won and then we will focus on the next one against Aston Villa which will be a tough one.
“The victory means a lot, it gives us momentum, confidence and a connection with the fans.
“Hopefully it will be the same against Tottenham when we can avoid relegation and everyone will be happy.
“The free-kick was fantastic and the penalty save… I was really pleased for them.
“ Hopefully Karl Darlow does not need to save any more until the end of the season.”
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0
Newcastle: Townsend 58
Possession was Newcastle 50% Palace 50%
Total shots were Newcastle 10 and Palace 9
Shots on target were Newcastle 4 and Palace 3
Corners were Newcastle 4 and Palace 8
Team: Darlow, Anita (Shelvey 88), Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett, Townsend, Tiote, Colback, Sissoko, Wijnaldum (Perez 80), Cisse (Mitrovic 72)
Unused Subs: Woodman, de Jong, Taylor, Mbabu
Ref: Mike Dean