A relegation 6 pointer for sure, And today’s bottom half clash served up a real game of two halves.
A 22nd minute strike from Mo Diame put Newcastle into a deserved lead in a first half they dominated. But Palace, who were just as dominant in the second, had to rely on an unbelievable decision from a linesman who gave them a penally 10 minutes into the half. That moment changed the game and in the end Rafa Benitez will be happy to get away with a point.
There had been a few changes from Rafa as he shifted things around a little from the midweek home game against Burnley.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame (Hayden, 65), Kenedy (Atsu, 57), Perez (Merino, 79), Gayle
There was no place for Islam Slimani who continues to recover from a minor injury picked up in the week of transfer deadline day in training. Whilst Kenedy got his second start after an impressive display at St James Park last time out. Dubravka had to be content with a place on the bench, whilst Joselu was withdrawn from the squad before kick off due to illness.
And the changes didn’t seem to unsettle the lads too much in the early stages with an early set piece ending with Geyle hitting a snap shot straight into the arms of Hennessy. This after Palace would have been disappointed not to make more of a ball that saw Zaha almost race clear.
Another warning for the home side however as this time the same defence splitting pass saw Benteke race into the box only to be denied by the sprawling Darlow.
A decent ball in from Yedlin would see Perez test the keeper with a decent effort from a tight angle with the home side now growing into the game and looking dangerous when attacking with speed.
Before the game it had been expected that Townsend and Cabaye wouldn’t be fit enough for even the bench, so to see both starting, particularly allowing Roy Hodgson to field Townsend, Zaha and Benteke in his from three, wasnt
The breakthrough would send the travelling fans into ecstasy. Some interchange between the Newcastle front line would result in a corner to the visitors. And having provided an assist the last time out, another corner, this time low and fizzed across the Palace box would seemingly miss everyone and allow Mo Diame the easiest of jobs to stab home at the back post. 1-0 with 22 gone and something to really build on for Rafa and his men.
To be fair the first quarter of the game had seen Newcastle dominate possession with 59% during the opening spell. For once though, they’d converted that early pressure into a goal.
For Diame reward from some outstanding recent performances.
A huge let off after 30 minutes though when good work down the with from Townsend saw Zaha only find Yedlin’s body when he really should have scored.
Straight up the other end and Newcastle could have been two up. A wonderful ball to Kenedy allowed him to cut onto his right inside the box but his his shot was blocked and Perez’s follow up strike from outside the box was brilliantly pushed wide by the Palace keeper.
With moments left of the first half another ball behind the back four of Newcastle allowed Zaha a free run into the corner of the box. His eventual shot would take two deflections making the fingertip save all the more impressive from Darlow. His save was deflected into the path of Benteke, and although the flag was raised for offside, he wasn’t to know that as he kneed the ball wide.
A good half from Newcastle who, despite riding their luck on occasions, probably deserved the lead at the break.
Into the second half and it really is starting to feel like the officials have some kind of personal vendetta against the Magpies. How many times do you see holding in the box? And yet with Benteke and Clark both holding with a handful of each others jerseys the linesman decided that it has to be a penally.
Should Clark have a hand full of shirt. No. But talk about a lack of consistency.
Up steps Miivojevic to slam the spot kick home despite a fantastic effort from Darlow to keep it out.
Palace, tails up, now looking like a totally different proposition than what they offered in the first half and Newcastle had to find way to stem the tide. Newcastle just setting deeper and deeper offering nothing in return.
As the minutes counted down it had to be a case of just find a way to hang on. A point would not be the end of the world, nothing would be a real kick in the teeth with a run of tough fixtures to come.
A goal line scramble with Clark performing heroics and a late Atsu curled shot that went wide would complete the final act before the referee put the Newcastle fans out of their pain and sent them home with a point.
You have to feel a point away to a relegation rival is a decent result, but thats usually true when you’re picking up the odd win at home. Newcastle may have to put together the odd shock result between now and the end of the season if they are to survive this one.