There is no question Newcastle United are playing a lot better than they were at the start of the year, but the statistics continue to make grim reading after this infuriating defeat by Crystal Palace.
If Newcastle thought they had turned the corner with the win over Everton last weekend, this felt like they have ended up back in a cul-de-sac.
They are much more enjoyable to watch, have had 43 shots in their past two home games against Leeds and Palace, but converted only two of them and ended up losing both. That is not easing their relegation fears.
They had more than enough chances to put the game out of Palace’s reach before half-time, but did not convert them and paid the price for five minutes of dreadful defensive play.
It means they have now lost 10 out of their past 13 games in all competitions and manager Steve Bruce will be back in the firing line.
“The performance was pleasing, and we hope if we keep performing like that the points will come,” Bruce said. “They had 10 or 15 minutes in the game, and they’ve ended up winning it, which is the frustrating thing. The most disappointing thing is not taking our chances, we’ve got to be more clinical.”
With their new coach Graeme Jones starting in the stands before moving into the dugout in the second half, the difference in Newcastle’s approach is obvious. They could have scored three or four, but only managed one and conceded two sloppy goals of their own.
Having taken the lead after just 71 seconds through Jonjo Shelvey, with Ryan Fraser, Miguel Almirón and Callum Wilson all involved in the build-up before the Newcastle captain drilled a shot home from the edge of the area, they did not make the most of their dominance.
Jeff Hendrick hooked an effort wide soon after while Wilson’s scorpion kick flew just over.
Palace, though, had also shown intent and only an excellent intervention from Jamal Lewis denied Wilfried Zaha from Eberechi Eze’s cross.
It was an almost identical move down the left that led to the equaliser. Patrick van Aanholt was left in far too much space with Eze and, although his cross was cut out by Lewis, Jairo Riedewald ran on to the loose ball and his fierce drive deflected in off Ciaran Clark.
Four minutes later, Palace were in front, a silly foul from Lewis on Jordan Ayew leading to a free-kick, which was met by the unmarked Gary Cahill, who had lost Fabian Schär far too easily.
Newcastle had thrown the lead away, but kept cutting Palace open, Fraser missing two chances he should have taken, although the worst miss of all came from Schär, who put a free header wide from six yards.
Palace shut things down in the second half with Cahill and Scott Dann superb in the middle of the defence. Even the introduction of Allan Saint-Maximin could not prise the visiting defence open.
Shelvey might have done better with a header and Dann made an outstanding block to deny Saint-Maximin. And after Andros Townsend’s remarkable miss for Palace in stoppage time, Andy Carroll could not direct a header beyond Vicente Guaita.
“We didn’t start well,” said Roy Hodgson, the Palace manager. “That could have spelt trouble, but we got back into it with good football. We lost our way again, but dug in and worked so hard to keep them out.”
FT Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
There’s the final whistle. As Carroll’s weak header goes straight into the arms of Guaita.
A valuable away win for Palace, who did the business in the first half, with two goals inside four minutes to wrestle control of the match after Shelvey’s early goal.
Newcastle huffed and puffed in the second half but they lacked the quality to haul themselves back into the match.
90+4 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Halfway through the four minutes of added on time.
Riedewald is withdrawn to waste some more time, with Kouyate coming on for Palace.
90 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
What. a. miss! Townsend hang your head in shame.
Palace with all the ball since that substitution. They play it around for fun, Riedewald reaches the byline, puts in on a plate for Townsend in front of goal and then he contrives to miss the target! It would be harder to miss than score!
89 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Newcastle’s best option of a goal here seems via Saint-Maximin who keeps trying to cut in from the left-hand side.
Sadly for Newcastle fans, the ball is currently on the opposite side of the pitch.
Defender Clark is hooked by Bruce with Newcastle striker Carroll coming on.
88 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
I can barely remember Palace having a meaningful attack this half. Doesn’t matter though, as they’re the ones with the crucial one-goal lead. Less than five minutes to hold on.
86 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Message not received. Now it’s Shelvey who shoots from distance. Again, over the bar.
85 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
No, no no. Newcastle passing it sideways, backwards, along the halfway line. That’s not the area that will create danger.
Schär decides to go for glory with a piledriver from distance. It’s over the bar. Very much the wrong option there matey.
82 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Palace are closing in on rare back-to-back Premier League victories. They’re not doing anything silly, just digging in and getting the job done so far.
80 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
What a block by Palace defender Dann! Cutting in from the left, Saint-Maximin slaloms around Clyne with ease before moving towards the six-yard box but there is Dann to put his body on the line for the shot.
79 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
The rain continues to pour down and the wind swirls around St James’ Park, which in fairness to the players is probably not making things easy.
78 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Newcastle fans will no doubt be aware that 10 of their goals this season have come in the final 15 minutes of matches. Very much into that territory now.
77 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Old Brucey must have heard me… Gayle is coming on against his old club, as Manquillo trots off. Newcastle upping the attacking threat and taking off a defender.
75 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Still not working in attack for Newcastle, will Steve Bruce be tempted into another change with 15 minutes left?
73 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Straight swap up front for Crystal Palace as Benteke comes on for fellow Belgian Batshuayi
72 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
The visitors are doing a good job of getting back into their defensive lines. Desperate measures required there though as Milivojevic comes across to shut down Wilson. It’s a nasty one, with studs high, and earns him a yellow.
Yet another Newcastle set piece, another one off-target as Dann forces Shelvey to head over.
68 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
It’s that man Almiron again, but this time performing defensive duties in closing down a Palace attack close to the corner flag and dispossessing Townsend. It will be interesting to see the Newcastle man’s running figures tonight. He’s certainly put a shift in.
67 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Saint-Maximin makes a difference with the ball this time, striding forward and trying to feed Wilson into the box. It doesn’t come off but that is much more positive for the home side.
65 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Saint-Maximin, perhaps a bit too eager, gets his first involvement in the game, by fouling Townsend. A physical reminder to the fellow sub that he has arrived, no doubt.
And it’s confirmed from the Palace bench that is a hamstring injury for Zaha.
63 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Newcastle changes are being readied.
Wilson brilliantly controls the ball in the box, but his team-mates let him down.
Ah yes, there’s Saint-Maximin coming on for Hendrick.
60 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Fifteen minutes gone in this half and it does feel like neither side has quite found their rhythm, even if Newcastle are slightly the brighter of the teams.
58 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
And there you go, the sign that a player has had enough as he plops down on the turf. Zaha is clearly frustrated.
Fair enough he needs tending to and it’s a way of managing time, but why does every player feel the need to go down on the pitch when the touchline is so close? Just hobble off, it’s what they all end up doing anyway.
Here comes Townsend as a replacement for Palace, against his former side.
55 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
It’s the right hamstring by the looks of things with Zaha. He still doesn’t seem quite right, trotting back into midfield.
54 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Oh oh, Palace fans look away now. After marauding forward, Zaha pulls up on the far touchline holding his hamstring. He’s gingerly trying to run it off.
53 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Fraser whips it in but Guaita punches confidently clear. Yet another corner comes to nothing and then Almiron tries his luck from the edge of the box and Milivojevic deflects out for, yes another corner. And another.
50 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Newcastle are trying their best to fashion something but it’s laboured. Oh hang on, what’s this? Fraser turns on the afterburners on the far touchline and draws a foul and yellow card from Clyne. Freekick Newcastle.
47 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Forgot to mention, no changes from either side at the break. Although Newcastle’s Saint-Maximin was doing a very vigorous warm-up so I can’t imagine it will be long before we see him
HT Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Nothing much of note in that two minutes. So Palace head into the break, having turned things around following Shelvey’s goal after just 70 seconds.
I’ll leave you with Riedewald’s goal to watch on loop during the interval
44 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Crystal Palace holding their shape well approaching half time, as Newcastle revert to playing it across the back for a few minutes.
It’s boosting their possession stats somewhat, but not getting them any closer to goal.
42 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Almiron looks so much like a former colleague I used to work with. Nice chap. I’m sure Almiron is too.
He’s drifting around again for Newcastle, trying to make things happen. Almiron that is.
40 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
It’s proving to be a fascinating battle between Cahill and Wilson. The latter and Almiron at the heart of Newcastle’s attacking play.
Schär, perhaps looking to make up for that missed header moments ago, takes aim from distance. He screws it wide.
38 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Oh so close! It’s up and over the wall, takes a slight deflection and then clips the top of the bar.
From the resulting corner, Schärspins his free header wide.
Bruce has his hands on his head. Chances, chances
36 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
There you go. Wilson wins his team a, perhaps soft, freekick on the edge of the box.
Almiron is eyeing up this one…
34 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
CHANCE! Fraser so close to an equaliser but Guaita is equal to the task. Wilson threads an incredible through ball to Fraser, he tries to flick it over the keeper but it finishes off target.
Newcastle would be minded to get the ball to Wilson as much as they can.
31 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
The hosts are trying to scramble an equaliser. It’s pinging around the box but Shelvey is unbalanced when he shoots and Guaita gathers in goal.
Replays show that move started with Almiron pinching the ball off Milivojevic but also leaving his mark on the Palace man’s heel. Naughty.
29 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
Another kick dished out to Ayew on the half-way line. He’s back up on his feet but Shelvey receives yellow for his troubles.
That goal in the second minute suddenly seeming a long time ago.
DISALLOWED GOAL Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2
No third goal for Palace. Clyne crosses from the right wing, Batshuayi makes a hash of it but it falls to Zaha behind him to lash home from close range. Alas, Batshuayi was offside in the first place. Not his finest hour all round.
GOAL! Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 2 (Cahill 25 mins)
And it is Cahill! The former England defender attacks the ball at the near post and absolutely buries his header. That’s his 50th career goal for club and country.
And more importantly for Palace, they’ve spun this game on its head. Less than four minutes between those two goals.
26 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 1
Palace have their tails up as Lewis concedes a foul for Newcastle in the corner. Dann and Cahill trot forward for Palace….
GOAL! Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 1 (Riedewald 21 mins)
What is it about barnstormingly good goals tonight?
This is all about the power from Riedewald, getting right over the ball to keep it down from outside the box. It takes a slight defection off Clark, but I’d put that down as better than Shelvey’s earlier effort.
18 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0
Almiron has been impressive so far, displaying quick feet and a willingness to take the ball.
His pass to Fraser looks overcooked on the left but the Newcastle man retrieves it and whips in a cross.
Almost a Giroud-esque scorpion effort from Wilson but it goes over the bar. That is a sign of a man high on confidence.
16 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0
Palace’s attacking force are back to combine and clear. But Newcastle continue to work away down the right wing, winning a series of throws.
15 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0
The players are getting a soaking tonight in Newcastle. It’s not bothering Wilson though, as he robs Cahill of the ball on the byline and wins a corner.
13 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0
Much better from Palace. Batshuayi holds the ball up on the edge of the box, plays it out to Eze on the left and he whips it in first time to Ayew but a Newcastle defender just nips in to deflect out for a corner. Nothing occurring from the set piece.
10 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0
Zaha spins and looks for a freekick on the near touchline, feeling he was unfairly stopped by Lewis. Not happening.
8 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0
Who is this new confident Newcastle side? Corner kick for the hosts.
Palace can’t clear their lines properly, it comes back in from the right, Wilson flicks it on and Hendrick nearly grabs a second for his team with a neat turn. It goes just wide of the post.
5 mins Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0
Palace getting some much welcomed time on the ball. But a reinvigorated Newcastle pinch the ball in midfield.
GOAL! Newcastle 1 (Shelvey 2 mins) Crystal Palace 0
Absolutely brilliant start for Newcastle.
Wilson does the leg work in the box, holding the ball up and then when it pops out at the edge of the box, Shelvey doesn’t break stride to lash straight into the bottom corner.
An impressive win over Everton but let’s not get carried away, is very much the message from Newcastle manager Steve Bruce.
Callum Wilson scored twice in the last 17 minutes at Goodison Park to end a run of nine Premier League matches without a win.
It might have eased the pressure on Bruce, whose side had previously lost five in a row, but he knows it will count for nothing if they do not build on it, starting on Tuesday against Crystal Palace, who are only four points ahead of them.
“I haven’t turned it around now just because of one performance,” he said. “There were little signs against Villa in the second half and against Leeds the other night. I hope if, in time, we stay fit and healthy we will be OK. I was (always) convinced of that.
Newcastle could complete a league double over Palace for the first time since 2013-14 with victory tonight. The past four meetings at St James’ Park have all ended 1-0, with Newcastle winning three times and Palace once. The Magpies are also looking to win successive league games for only the second time this season.
The visitors come into this match after victory themselves, squeezing past Wolves. Nineteen of their 26 points have come against fellow sides currently in the bottom half of the table so they will fancy their chances of something tonight.
Having said that, however, the Eagles have recorded only one clean sheet in 14 away games, conceding 29 goals. Palace also are winless in four away league games, drawing and losing two apiece. And they have conceded a league-high 12 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches, one more than Newcastle. So let’s see how they fare tonight.
Team news incoming very shortly before kick-off at 8.15pm.