What concerns me most is that we appear to be getting worse each week – Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle 0

Martin Dubravka

I must be one of the few Newcastle fans that actually looks out for Palace away when the fixtures come out.

Based in South London, Selhurst Park is my nearest ground and it is very easy for me to get there.

Considering I regularly make the 600 mile or so round trip for home games, it still feels a little bit strange having a game on my doorstep.

Credit must go to the fans who travelled down for this and I hope you all had a good day apart from the 90 minutes of football.

We went into this game with one league win in the last eight and our performances are getting worse. We still have a seven point cushion between us and the bottom three but we are far from safe. Palace had not won since boxing day and started the game one point behind us. I don’t think anyone was expecting a thriller here.

This was a game which looked certain to be last on Match of the Day between, probably, the two worst sides to watch in the league at the moment. We won the reverse fixture 1-0 at St James Park but we were fortunate.

With Highbury, Upton Park and White Hart Lane all a distant memory, Selhurst Park is one of few older grounds left in London and is certainly showing its age. It is a bit of a throwback and has hardly changed during my lifetime. The concourse is much too compact for the number of fans attending but the Toon Army was in good voice before the match. We didn’t even try to make our way to the bar and headed straight to our seats. From what I could see the only ‘beer’ on sale was Carlsberg so I don’t think we missed much.

Newcastle lined up with our usual 5-2-3 formation and the injured Ciaran Clark was the only one left out after the Arsenal farce last week. So much for Bruce’s comments during the week about shaking it up a bit. All three of our new loan signings were in from the start and Dwight Gayle was on the bench. With Joelinton and Christian Benteke leading the line for their respective sides, goals didn’t look likely. Our former player Andros Townsend was also on the Crystal Palace bench.

Crystal Palace started the brighter of the two teams and they put us under pressure with a succession of set-pieces and Martin Dubravka did brilliantly to palm away a Gary Cahill header. We may as well give him our player of the season award now. Soon after he made another brilliant save, this time from Scott Dann’s header. Time and time again, we lost the ball in midfield. The partnership between Sean Longstaff and Nabil Bentaleb looks unconvincing and Palace used the extra man in central midfield to their advantage.

It felt like a matter of when, rather than if, Palace were going to score but Joelinton did test Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita, with a drive from range. The resulting corner from Lazaro went straight out of play and summed up our overall performance so far.

Bentaleb gave the ball away again and was then booked after bringing down Jordan Ayew. This time Benteke somehow missed a header at point blank range. The pressure continued and Fabian Schar, who did not look comfortable on the left of the back three, brought down Benteke in the 45th minute. This time we were punished and Patrick Van Aanholt, who received stick all game due to his previous Mackem connections, sent a free kick across Dubravka and into the left hand side of the Holmesdale net. Dubravka could have possibly done better but it’s hard to be too critical considering his overall performance up to that point.

I don’t think anyone in the away end was surprised to see Palace take the lead. In all honesty our fans were fairly quiet for most of the match; not surprising considering the performance and style of football on show. Only the usual anti Ashley songs were sung with any real enthusiasm. Palace, generally, have one of the nosier home supports in the league but they too seemed a bit quiet on this occasion. Maybe they had sympathy for us or more likely they were too busy having a laugh at our expense.

It was clear that something needed to change if we were to have any chance of altering the course of this match but we came back out for the second half and continued where we left off. Ayew hit the post and Gary Cahill put another header wide.

In all honesty we never looked close to getting back into the game though Guaita did tip a long distance Fabian Schar drive over the bar. This was as close as we would come in the second half and it would have been an injustice if we had scored.

Steve Bruce finally made two changes in the 71st minute. Gayle and Ritchie came on for Rose and Almiron but it was too little too late.

Dubravka made another save at his near post, this time from Jordan Ayew. Palace then made two substitutions themselves. Kouyate and Benteke come off for Tosun and Riedewald. For some reason I don’t understand, Steve Bruce decided not to use his third substitution.

A miserable afternoon was complete after Lazaro was sent off in injury time for bringing down Zaha when through on goal. Lazaro did not look comfortable in the wing-back position and I really don’t know what Bruce was thinking playing him there when DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench. Crystal Palace had one final chance before the end as Van Aanholt blasted a free kick into the crowd. The game was over and somehow we have only lost 1-0.

We left the ground and make the quick trip over to Sutton United to watch a 2-2 draw with Barrow, a match that was far more entertaining despite being four tiers lower.

On the face of it, a 1-0 defeat away to Palace is not a disaster but there were so many things that were wrong with this performance. We never looked like we could get something out of this match and what concerns me most is that we appear to be getting worse each week.

There are lots of square pegs in rounds roles. The Longstaff and Bentaleb midfield partnership does not work, Schar is not comfortable on the left hand side of defence, Lazaro is not a wing-back and Joelinton is not a lone striker.

I am amazed that it took until the 70th minute to make any changes and that the third substitute was not even used. Honestly, the only thing which is stopping me calling for Bruce to go is that I have absolutely no faith that Mike Ashley would replace him with anyone better.

Despite all this, results elsewhere mean that we still have a seven point gap between us and the bottom three at the time of writing. The teams below us are struggling to get results but we can’t rely on this to stay up. As things stand I think we probably need two more wins.
We are at home to Burnley next week. A win could be a massive step towards safety. We still have to play all of the teams below us with the exception of Norwich but we need to improve dramatically to start picking up points.

Stats from BBC Sport (Half-time stats in brackets):

Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle 0 – Saturday 22 February 2020 3pm

Goals:

Crystal Palace:

Van Aanholt 44

Newcastle United:

Lazaro red card 90+5

Possession was  Palace 44% (44%), Newcastle 56% (56%)

Total shots were Palace 18 (11) Newcastle 8 (5)

Shots on target were Palace 9 (6), Newcastle 2 (1)

Corners were Palace 7 (3), Newcastle 5 (3)

Crowd: (2,800 Newcastle)

Referee: Peter Bankes

Newcastle team v Crystal Palace:

Dubravka, Lazaro, Fernandez, Lascelles, Schar, Rose (Ritchie 70), Sean Longstaff, Bentaleb, Almiron (Gayle 70), Saint-Maximin, Joelinton

Subs

Darlow, Matty Longstaff, Lejeune,  Yedlin, Hayden

(Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle 0 – Match ratings and comments on all NUFC players – Read HERE)

(Steve Bruce reaches new levels of embarrassing with comments after defeat at Crystal Palace – Read HERE)

(Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle 0 – Watch official match highlights here as Dubravka keeps the score down – Watch HERE)

(Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle 0 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s lucky one goal defeat – Read HERE)

(Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle 0 – Incredible Steve Bruce luck as Newcastle United escape a real hiding – Read HERE)

You can follow Kieran on Twitter @KJR90

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