A last gasp winner from Papiss Cisse saw us snatch all three points from a tepid encounter against a stubborn Palace side. Remy and Debuchy’s continued absence saw us line up with the same side that lost tamely at Fulham and the performance for much of the match was barely improved.
Palace had come for the nowts apiece and at times in the first half, they really did have ten men behind the ball and only posed a minimal threat with Jerome isolated up front. At the other end, it looked like it was going to be another one of those days for the lively Cisse, as Speroni pulled off two excellent saves in the first period. Cisse was played in for the first but his shot was superbly turned around the post by the visitors keeper. The second chance was an even better save – Sissoko, who was otherwise utter garbage, crossed and the striker met it superbly on the volley only for the keeper to be in the right place to save.
Our overall play was laboured though, with a series of sideways passes and a clear lack of creativity on display. I remember us winning a free kick on the edge of the box early on and when Tiote was deemed to be our best option for a shot on goal, it spelled out just how abysmally short we actually are on any sort of creativity. Not to knock the Ivorian, who was actually the best of a bad bunch in the middle but he can hardly be expected to play the Cabaye role, can he?
We struggled in the same vain to break them down early in the second half and they had their best chance when Bolasie saw his shot deflected off the bar with Krul beaten. The momentum in the game changed when the hideous De Jong was mercifully hooked off on the hour to be replaced by Ben Arfa. Palace started to sit deeper on his introduction and although he can certainly be maddening at times, at least he had a will to drive the game forward.
Ben Arfa crossed for Cisse but his header flashed over and our best chance seemed to be blown late in the game when Tiote crashed a shot off the bar and Cisse somehow contrived to miss an open goal when the ball was squared to him from the rebound, evading him by inches. The three minutes of added time had already passed when we got our winner right at the death. We’ve made a canny habit of scoring last ditch goals over the past couple of season and it seems that more often than not it is Cisse on the end of them and this was no different. Ben Arfa was the creator, picking him out with a wonderful ball that landed plum on his head from eight yards out. Cisse steered his header past Speroni to a wave of relief from striker and fans alike.
This was the last act of the game and as delighted as I was with the result, I was even more so for Cisse, who was actually our best player on the day. For me, Ben Arfa absolutely has to start on Tuesday. I’ve grown more than weary of watching Sissoko do the sum total of absolutely nothing in the middle of the park/out wide and with De Jong looking more and more like an absolute plank every time I see him, there surely has to be a place for HBA, even if he is nine stone overweight or we will have no chance whatsoever of breaking down a much better side like Everton. A run in the side for Cisse could do him the world of good too – I’m firmly of the belief that there’s still a good player in there somewhere but in order for him to come out.
On a day that was short on positives though, the result certainly was just that and Tuesday should provide an interesting and sterner test against an Everton side with an outside chance of sneaking into a Champions League place.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United: – Tim Krul 6, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa 6, Fabricio Coloccini 7, Mike Williamson 6, Paul Dummett 6, Moussa Sissoko 4 (Sylvain Marveaux n/a), Vurnon Anita 5, Chieck Tiote 7, Yoan Gouffran 6 (Shola Ameobi 5), Luuk du Jong 3 (Hatem Ben Arfa 7), PAPISS CISSE 7
Ref – Probert – 6 – Barely noticed him
Our Fans – 5 – Stupefied
Their Fans – 7 – Good numbers, hope they stay up.