While Newcastle United continue their impressive rise, Tony Pulis was left to reflect on just how much work he has to do to get this Crystal Palace team up to the level he would like. The gap between the two sides made for an easy win for the visitors, and Alan Pardew beamed about a display in which his side “couldn’t have done it better” and a “sweet feeling” coming back to a club he loves to beat. The home manager, on the other hand, wrote it off as a “bad one”.
Admittedly, Palace do have many of the trappings of a Pulis team – except, on this occasion, that notoriously concrete defensive togetherness. They sat back, tackled tenaciously and threatened at set pieces, but had appalling moments of laxness at the back that lost the game.
All of that ensured this was a poor contest, but there was something thoroughly impressive about the manner in which Pardew honed in on a weakness, which his Newcastle team persistently exploited. All three goals came down Palace’s left.
First, on 25 minutes, Moussa Sissoko did superbly to roar by Marouane Chamakh and feed Yohan Cabaye near the penalty spot. From there, the midfielder (right) fired the ball home through a Mile Jedinak deflection.
Second, on 39 minutes, Mathieu Debuchy attempted a cross from the same flank. Danny Gabbidon stretched to deflect it away, but could only divert into his own goal.
“They had so much play down the right-hand side,” Pulis acknowledged. “It cost us a lot.”
If that was game over, the hope for Newcastle is they’re starting to really find a groove. Pardew isn’t necessarily the most tactically sophisticated manager himself, but he possesses an undeniable aptitude for maximising something that works. It was the reason for the club’s superb fifth-place finish in 2011-12, as Newcastle started off by funnelling everything through Demba Ba, before switching to Papiss Cissé rather than allow opposition sides to work it out. This wet afternoon offered that kind of impressive focus on the scale of a one-off game.
“We’ve just got a team that believes in what it’s doing,” Pardew said. “It has a functionality about it, it is thorough in terms of professionalism with no-one shirking responsibility, they’ve all got confidence, therefore making us a difficult team to undo.”
Newcastle figured out how to undo Palace and forced repeated errors there. It was no coincidence Pulis hauled off Dean Moxey at half-time, as he admitted afterwards. The young defender had no opportunity to rectify his opening errors, but by then Palace had no real chance of getting back into the match.
That might have changed had Cameron Jerome converted an easy 65th-minute opportunity, but that wouldn’t have reflected the game. What did reflect the game was yet another opening arriving on Palace’s left, even if this was forced in a somewhat different way.
In the 86th minute, Moxey’s replacement Jonathan Parr stuck his leg out in the box, which allowed Shola Ameobi to go over it all too easily.
Substitute Hatem Ben Arfa hit the consequent penalty high enough so Julian Speroni’s touch made no difference. It was 3-0, but Newcastle had long secured the three points.
Pulis is going to have to offer more defensive security to get Palace out of the bottom three and it is no surprise he apparently wants to buy at least two defenders in January. “The two goals we conceded were poor,” he admitted.
“The one thing we have been since I came here is pretty solid and disciplined in coping with most things, but today we have gifted them two poor goals.
“From that point we are chasing the game against a team I feel will finish in the top eight.
“The next two games at Villa Park and Man City will be tough, tough games so we have to do well here and we can’t be gifting teams goals,” he added.
Pulis does remain hugely optimistic about avoiding relegation, while Pardew was quietly confident regarding Newcastle’s potential for this season, as they now sit in sixth.
“I’ll let people talk what they like. For us, it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s about here and now. The truth is we’re playing really well. If we can beat Stoke [on Boxing Day], I think Arsenal will not feel comfortable coming to our place.
“I think it’s fair to say we’ve got a team at the moment that looks dangerous, and even the top teams will not relish playing us.”
Pulis certainly didn’t relish it yesterday, which was quite the reversal.
Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Speroni; Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey (Parr, 45); Bannan (Bolasie, 45), Ward, Jedinak, Puncheon; Jerome (Gayle, 75), Chamakh.
Newcastle (4-5-1): Krul; Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon; Sissoko, Anita, Tiote, Cabaye (Ben Arfa, 77), Gouffran; Remy (Ameobi, 75).
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.
Man of the match: Cabaye (Newcastle)
Match rating: 5/10