Due to what can only be a scheduling error, there was a rude interruption to the wild and wonderful takeover speculation and the Chronicle’s constant profiling of Amanda Staveley, while Newcastle insisted on playing a football match. How very irregular.

The previously atrocious Palace had screeched their horrendous run to a halt against Chelsea the previous week, and there had to be the fear that we might get both barrels of a resurgence, as Roy Hodgson gets to grips with the Eagles.

It was a banana skin that many a mentally weak Newcastle side of the past would have slipped on, but with Rafa, there is always hope that we are beyond these kind of pratfalls.

This was a fair summary of the turgid first half, as a lively Palace side had the best of the play, but the organisation and discipline of the United defence restricted them to precisely zero clear cut chances. The roundly booed Townsend was constantly looking to be involved but was given a battle by Manquillo, while on the other flank the dangerous Wilf Zaha learned the hard way that  roasting your opponent for pace is not a thing when the opponent is DeAndre Yedlin, so resorted to falling over a lot in some bids to gain favour from the referee.

It wasn’t Zaha who got the ref’s biggest favour though, as the second most booed ex-Mag on the pitch found himself very lucky to stay on it. Cabaye’s late flying tackle on Yedlin had all the hallmarks of a red card; ref sprinting straight over, melee amongst team-mates, baying crowd screaming “Off”, it all looked bad for our former dreamboat. I can’t be the only person that sensed the deja vu of this, as the situation dragged on and on I thought “This is gonna be a sodding yellow isn’t it?” Sure enough the ineffective half-card came out, with the red kept firmly in its cellophane in the hope that Shelvey would give an excuse for it to make an appearance. It’s not even funny that people can’t get sent off against us any more.

The first half ground to an end, Atsu’s shot into the side netting the only semi-threatening moment of a typical stalemate. Palace’s tactic of playing two wingers with apparently no one in the middle has obvious shortcomings, whereas United’s front two of the struggling Joselu and the anonymous Perez offered little more. It did not look promising for the second half.

I had particular reason for wanting this game to come to life. I went to the match with my mate Andy and his two boys. Their family is from Bath, a city with little in the way of football loyalties, but their recent move to York has seen the boys’ interactions with silly kids wearing Man U tops pique their interest a bit. The fact that Andy’s youngest son Adam is my godson meant I felt a duty of care to get him into a proper team and today was to be the beginning of that indoctrination As the rain started plopping down at the outset of the equally pedestrian second half I started to wonder if I’d picked a bad time to initiate this process.

The introduction of Merino looked like a step in the right direction but the Spaniard initially failed to impact in the congested middle of the field. To be brutally honest, for me the second substitution was the one that changed the game, as the ineffective Perez was removed for Mo Diame. Diane seemed instantly involved in United’s sudden stream of attacks, unleashing a shot that called Speroni into action for the first time. Moments later Shelvey did the same and Mitrovic was sent on to add further impetus. Finally, this game was on.

Palace gave us a scare as their own substitute (and former United target) Loftus-Cheek went charging down the right and sent a fizzing ball over that Van Aanholt (ex Mags everywhere) narrowly missed connecting with.

United swiftly got back to exerting pressure though, and set about one of those periods of multiple corner winning as the clock wore down. It turned out that third time was the charm as Merino rose impressively high to power Ritchie’s delivery in off the bar. Blimey, he can do headers too!

The eruption that followed was saturated in relief. Palace had offered so little that it didn’t ever feel under threat and four minutes of injury time was negotiated without them adding to their no shots on target.

So, some 29 years after I endured a 0-0 with Derby as my introduction to St James Park, there was someone on hand to ensure my godson didn’t suffer the same slow introduction.

With these boy’s allegiances far more open to negotiation than mine ever was (or my kids’ will be when it comes to their turn), it may just be that Mikel Merino has done his bit to secure a couple of future magpies. It just goes to show, however insipid and nondescript a game may appear, it’s always a special one to someone.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0

Goals:

Newcastle: Merino 86

Possession was Palace 45% Newcastle 55%

Total shots were  Palace 10 Newcastle 7

Shots on target were Palace 0 Newcastle 3

Corners were  Palace 5 Newcastle 3

Referee: Stuart Attwell

Newcastle United:

Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Manquillo, Ritchie, Shelvey, Hayden (Merino 56), Atsu, Perez (Diame 66), Joselu (Mitrovic 78)

Unused Subs:

Darlow, Clark, Gamez, Murphy

Crowd: 52,251

(Read what Rafa had to say after the match HERE)

(Andros Townsend believes Newcastle didn’t deserve to win – read it HERE)

(Garth Crooks believes Newcastle could win the Premier League if Rafa is given right resources – Read HERE)

(Read instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the Palace match HERE)

(Alan Shearer reacts to win over Palace HERE)

(Amusing Roy Hodgson hard luck story after final whistle HERE)

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

To feature like Jamie Smith submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here


  • Grahame Johnson

    Walking down to the bus stop with my 16 year old daughter to put her on the bus after losing to Liverpool 6-0 thinking bless her she won’t want to go again,then getting a text saying how much are Newcastle tops and can I go again.we fall in love with the toon in strange ways

  • Oldgeordie

    What a brilliant report. Not only heartwarming but also factual. I remember my first game – 5th October 1946-Newcastle 13 Newport County 0. Been in love ever since. Hope the young lad has some good memories to take home to York. Maybe a real United shirt (black and white) to rival the Manchester United (where is that?) supporters.

    • Albert Stubbins

      B****y hell. Was that when shakleton scored six? That’s our record score as well. Christ you’ve had a better debut than quinny. Nice one.

    • Jamie Smith

      Thank you, I appreciate that. Your first game had a boys more action than mine, although both were touched by genius as Gazza played that day. He didn’t quite have the impact Shackleton did against Newport!

  • East Durham Mag

    My eight year old grandson got a Manure kit for his birthday and I wasn’t impressed but it could have been MUCH worse. Going to take him to SJP to see if he can be saved.

    • GToon

      Bin it. When my middle child was 8 he played for Aston Villa. Without me knowing he’d asked my wife if I would be cross when he put their shirt on!

      • East Durham Mag

        I’ll try the subtle approach and see what happens. I was relieved it wasn’t a SMB kit though.

    • Rich Lawson

      just don’t let him wear that kit !

  • GToon

    Jamie, my conversation with my three kids went like this – “I don’t care who you bring home, boy, girl or whatever, I don’t care what your politics are, I don’t care what your religious beliefs are but you will support Newcastle. That is not negotiable”. The kids love it when I remind them of it. And having been born and brought up in the midlands around teams that win things it has been tough at times but I always remind them that because of me, deep down inside them is a little piece of the north east. I also gave my daughter a middle name of Shearer so that whoever she ends up marrying knows the score too!

  • Wor Monga

    …Absolutely great read this and it’s what supporting football is all about…those 2 reminded me when Wor Old Fella first took me in the Gallowgate End…back in ’56, and then promptly lifted me up and passed me down to the front to sit on the wet cinder track…

    …all I can remember though is the players all seemed 9ft tall, and the ‘brown caser’ hurt when it hit the lad next to me, but I loved the shiney black and white shirts with red numbers on…still do!!!

    • GToon

      I remember sitting on the track against Leeds back in the 70s and supermac came and stood right next to me to launch a throw in forward. I couldn’t believe it!

  • Majiktoon

    Great article. Having supported the team from the far reaches of London for over 20 years, yesterday was the first time I got to go to home game too.

    Despite the turgid first half, the last 15 minutes and that goal meant my trip back was more than a happy one. Looking forward to heading back sooner rather than later.

  • Lazonby Mag

    My 7 year old daughter’s first game was Barnsley at the end of last season…….it may not get any better than that but she’ll certainly never forget it….