It was going great until Newcastle United pulled their usual stunt of spoiling things
Before I get into this, an observation: if countless international breaks are to be rammed down our throats, it should be made a rule that clubs can’t have an away game either side of the misery of the enforced down time.
It feels like a different era since our last appearance at SJP in the stunning comeback win v Everton. To be fair, the display on the pitch was a bit detached from the heady euphoria of that second half too.
There was a sense of complacency to be honest, as a steady seven point gap to third-bottom Cardiff feels like it might be enough. A win today would have stretched that beyond reasonable doubt, but this will carry on to Leicester, then Southampton as a poor defeat reignited the concept of a nail biting finish.
United had the better of the game in terms of possession and pressure, but it seems the old problem has re-emerged of the lack of that killer touch, this defeat reminiscent of that early season run of poor form that saw a string of home defeats.
Rondon was decidedly out of sorts in front of goal, heading horribly over when well placed, leading to thoughts that the uncertainty over his future may have left the Venezuelan slightly distracted. You need a professional response though, and Rondon did have the ball in the net, although he was clearly offside from Ritchie’s knock down.
Palace also had a similar experience, although they could feel notably harder done by as James Tomkins banged home from a corner and the full celebration ensured, players streaming down the pitch, pyro in the away end and visible sagging from the home team. However, a confabulation between ref and linesman decreed that the offside MacArthur had impeded Dubravka. Temporary respite for United.
The second half saw longer range efforts from Hayden and Ki well struck but straight down the keeper’s throat, a shame as he looked less than confident throughout. Yedlin’s thunderbolt to end a patient attack would have been sweet had it not finished just the wrong side of the upright.
The American was to have a decisive impact on the game, though not in a way we would have wanted. Almiron was guilty of a bit of flumdiddery in possession and Palace launched an ominous counter attack. Zaha went slaloming into the penalty area and Schar’s challenge looked ill-advised, but he kept his feet. Yedlin then went foolishly bundling in and the obvious penalty was awarded.
It was Palace’s 11th of the season, which was absolutely crackers (I reckon if you counted back our last 11 penalties Shearer would be taking them). However, it was so clear cut we can’t be feeling any sense of the hard done by. Milivojevic doesn’t make mistakes from the spot and sent Dubravka the wrong way.
I said last time that the introduction of Shelvey from the bench changed the game for the better against Everton, but his emergence this time just added to the struggle, with needless fouls and a continued lack of incisiveness.
A bad afternoon had been made worse (this is Newcastle remember) just after the hour when the impressive Lejeune slid in powerfully to win the ball but crumpled in pain immediately. The pain was evident from the stands and the stretcher coming on for someone who had suffered a cruciate injury earlier in the season was ominous. The worst was later confirmed, fingers crossed for a speedy recovery from a bloke who has never let us down.
The seven minutes of injury time this necessitated was not enough and a first home defeat since January contributed to a rubbish day as Burnley also scored an unlikely win, seeing Newcastle drop right back into the charts. Fifteenth, but the three teams below us all have some degree of games in hand.
Worst case scenario could see Cardiff reduce the deficit to four points and Brighton and Burnley put us in seventeenth to be the one the Welshmen are aiming for. It remains the case that one more win should do it, but defeat on Friday night (urgh) at the King Power could make for a very nervous weekend.
Today was planned as a bit of big one for me, as it would be the last time my full match day crew would be together this season, so we planned a bit of a day on it. It was going great until NUFC pulled their usual stunt of spoiling things, but we managed to get back on track. So if anyone is after using the comments section to start mithering about this not appearing until Monday night it’s cos I had a hangover OK you boring bast..d?
Also, I’m not there against Southampton so if you can respond in Sky Sports news turnaround time there’s a vacancy there.
Thanks for listening.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 0 Crystal Palace 1
Milivojevic 81 (Pen)
Possession was Palace 46% Newcastle 54%
Total shots were Palace 3 Newcastle 18
Shots on target were Palace 1 Newcastle 5
Corners were Palace 4 Newcastle 9
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune (Dummett 65), Ritchie (Atsu 90), Hayden, Ki (Shelvey 76), Almiron, Perez, Rondon
Darlow, Fernandez, Muto, Manquillo
Crowd: 51,926 (Palace 1,400)
(Read instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Newcastle’s defeat to Palace HERE)
(After the defeat Rafa Benitez revealed he is nowhere near agreeing a new contract with Mike Ashley – read HERE)
(Dubious Roy Hodgson comments HERE after beating Newcastle United)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
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