Not safe yet…

The best thing you could say was that this wasn’t as abject as the defeats to Sheffield United or Aston Villa.  That is praise so faint that it cannot be seen with an electron microscope.

The facts are these.  Yet again, we lost at home.  Yet again, we lost to a side in the bottom half.  Yet again, we deserved nothing.

What are the positives?  Only a desperate side (with a desperate manager) would try to find any in a home defeat to Crystal Palace, leaving us with a pathetic 22 points from 22 games.  If we stay up, it will only be because the points required to do so will be lower this season.  If that’s cause for celebration, mine’s a strong white cider.

We stuck with the same side that beat Everton (apart from Clark coming in for Lascelles) and started well enough.  We played higher up the pitch, pressed Palace into mistakes, and Wilson defended well from the front.  He really is a proper striker.  But that was only for the first 20 minutes.  Then we conceded two, and never looked like equalising, which is damning given that we had over an hour left.

Never mind his goal: Shelvey is a passenger and his involvement slows the whole team down.  Again, he failed to track his man and he let Palace back into the game.  Hendrick reverted to type, after showing signs of life at the weekend.  Hopeful balls were pumped in the general direction of Wilson, but more often straight onto the head of either Cahill or Dann.  Midfield was either pedestrian or bypassed entirely.

Again, we have followed up a promising performance with an abject one.  Before Everton, the last time we had a good 90 minutes was against Liverpool at Christmas, following which we went on a torrid run.  We cannot afford to go on another one.  As tonight showed, we’re nowhere near safe. Howay the lads.

Yousef Hatem

 

As expected…

Maybe I’m cynical? Maybe I’m a pessimist? Maybe I’m just long in the tooth when it comes to all things NUFC related, but I saw that coming.

Pre-match, most chatter was of 2-0 or even 3-0 home wins, but we all have seen Steve Bruce’s NUFC struggle to put two consecutive performances together for over 18 months now, so I was promoting caution when discussing this fixture when talking with fellow Mags.

Having taken the game by the scruff of the neck with Shelvey’s early cracker, it looked like my pessimism was going to be misplaced, but a 10-minute period where NUFC collectively forgot how to defend was enough to – unfortunately – prove me right…

A 10-minute period during which Jonjo Shelvey was once again proved to have the turning circle of an Armstrong Galley bus as Van Aanholt and Eze played around him on the left wing with embarrassing ease in the build up to their equaliser.

A 10-minute period during which Fabien Schär thought it’d be wise to give Gary Cahill a 10-yard run on him from a corner before losing him in the pack and allowing him to plant his header into Darlow’s net.

In fairness, the remaining 15 minutes of the half gave me confidence that we could rescue a result as we created enough chances to have gone into half time level or even in the lead.

The second half however was poor – by no means Sheffield United levels of poor – but poor nonetheless, as we clearly decided that the best form of attack was to continuously pass the ball sideways and backwards between our back four, allowing Palace ample time to get in shape – at one point I thought my lad was going to explode on the sofa next to me as he screamed “NOT SIDEWAYS!!!”

This, coupled with our penchant for pointless 35-yard efforts that wouldn’t have troubled Billy Foulkes and a huge over reliance on ASM, meant that, on the whole, Palace looked comfortable and, despite a couple of at best half chances, we never really looked like getting back into it.

Hugely disappointing, but not hugely surprising – we should all know by now what to expect from Steve Bruce’s version of NUFC.

Maybe Saturday’s game at Everton was just a different type of ‘Grenade’, eh Steve?

Lee Forster @LeeDForster

 

Reverting to type…

It’s another defeat against a side we should be beating. Yes, it’s an improvement on what has come before and there are some encouraging signs, but our midfield was too flat. Shelvey reverting back to collecting the ball from Schär and Clark.

On Saturday, the major positive was seeing Hendrick and Shelvey much further up the field with Hayden sitting in front of centre halves. It looked like Shelvey decided to reward himself with a free role in this game.  With the exception of the goal, he was simply awful. He has such a negative impact on this team. Sitting deep and slowing the game down, resulting in hitting long balls and conceding possession. I’m sick of it, and sick of him.  I hope Willock takes his place on Saturday – however, that would mean Hendrick retaining his place. Shit.

My worry before the game was that the Everton performance was a false dawn, much like Bournemouth last season. And it looks like it was. It was an improvement, but still quite some way to go.

The second half was really disappointing; the longer it went on, the deeper Shelvey played. I wondered whether it would make sense to just play him and Hayden as a two, bring Hendrick off and play ASM with Fraser and Miggy as a 3 behind Wilson – but no, that wasn’t to be.

Then, two baffling substitutions, demonstrating that it is Steve Bruce who manages the team from the touch line.  The old “let’s just hoy on all our strikers and see what happens”. Jesus wept.

It’s been a long while since I had any expectations ahead of a Newcastle game and last night was no different. As little confidence as I have, I think the players probably have less. We never seem to look like coming back into a game when we go a goal down.  It was all so utterly predictable.

On a positive note though, Steve Bruce “couldn’t be happier” with the performance.  Happy?  It’s another loss. Your 10th in 13 attempts. It’s NOT good enough, YOU are not good enough.

Tim Wood

Hypnosis, of the worst kind…

Another defeat, but this one felt… different? Too often this season, Newcastle have folded faster than Superman on laundry day, but recently there have been glimpses of, dare I say it, improvement.

Against Leeds, there was some fight during the second half; then a much-needed win at Goodison Park. The relief that brought, the sudden sense of hope, was palpable. Palace were beatable, a group of talented forwards, yes, but beatable. Newcastle have already shown that this season. Could we dream of a winning streak? (Two is a streak, okay!).

Sadly, no. Jonjo Shelvey’s goal after 73 seconds teased us, but a deflected thunderbolt and a set-piece gave Palace all they needed. The visitors threatened, fleetingly, but ultimately collapsed back into their own end. That’s all they needed to do.

Newcastle went side-to-side, side-to-side, side-to-side, perhaps trying to hypnotise Palace, perhaps devoid of creativity. Shelvey was closer to Clark and Schär than the opposing goal too often, balls into the box simply saw Callum Wilson outnumbered by Palace’s back-three.

There were shots – 21 in total – but just five on target, and two of those – Schär’s header, and Carroll’s – lacked power. Too much seemed expected of Saint-Maximin when he came on, and progressively he seemed to take on too much by himself.

The introductions of Gayle, and later Carroll, lacked coherence; it was more like throwing mud at the wall and seeing what stuck. The crosses had stopped by the time the latter had come on, the zip required to make the most of Gayle’s ability was also gone. Too slow all round.

Newcastle had the better of this game; they had more of the ball, more attempts at goal, more of everything, except where it counted. And that’s the frustrating part. This was still a better performance than we’ve seen for much of the season; arguably Newcastle did not deserve to lose. But they did.

The important thing now is to see that this system works. It just needs someone to drive home the key point that this team needs to be brave, needs to be bold, because it will only reap rewards if Newcastle play on the front foot. Fall back into that trap of sitting deep, as Newcastle did tonight, and it will all be for nothing.

Rob McGregor

One step forward, two steps back

An extremely frustrating night for Newcastle United as we slumped to defeat at home against a limited but organised Crystal Palace side. A bright start following on from the Everton game was interrupted by a two-goal Palace salvo midway through the first half, and we never seemed to recover. Whilst this was not as bad as we have played pre-Everton, there were a number of concerning aspects to tonight’s performance.

Our reluctance to pass forward into tight areas betrays a lack of confidence in the players, who seem scared of making an error and lack trust in team-mates to receive the ball under pressure. As loathe as I am to agree with Steve McManaman, who was commentating on the game for BT Sport, his description of one sustained spell of possession at the end of the first half as ‘pointless’ was on the money – sideways from full back to full back via the centre-halves, into midfield and back into defence. Rinse and repeat.

The midfield was leggy and lacking in invention. Jeff Hendrick is extremely fortunate to be seeing so much game time given his obvious limitations, and, whilst Shelvey’s goal was impressive, his continued persistence with long diagonal passes in horrendous conditions was infuriating. This side is crying out for the qualities we hope Joe Willock will provide, notably a forward thrust and an ability to carry the ball and beat a man in the centre of the park.

The choice and timing of Bruce’s substitutions are also worthy of closer scrutiny. Why wait until 63 minutes to introduce ASM when it was clear the game was petering out? We needed an injection of pace and ideas earlier. Then Gayle was introduced for Manquillo, disrupting the entire structure of the side. When Carroll replaced Clark late on, it was anyone’s guess how the players were meant to be positioned. Bruce’s idea of trying to influence the game often seems to put on as many attackers as possible and to hell with the formation – a simplistic and naïve approach.

All in all, another painful defeat for the Magpies which puts even more importance on the home game with Southampton on Saturday, who will be coming to Tyneside off the back of a humiliating 9-0 reverse at Old Trafford. Nothing less than a win will do to ensure the performance at Goodison Park isn’t an anomaly.

Craig Shaw @Shawzey15