With a large toon contingent down for the Palace match, today has been something I’ve been excited about for some time. Once we’d decided which pub to meet in, which took quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and elicited a fair few frowns from those who didn’t live near it, the day was off to a good start. The team was released, an hour before the match, and put us all in decent spirits. The lack of new loan signing Slimani wasn’t surprising given he’s injured, though several news outlets had asserted he’d be on the squad for Sunday – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t secretly hoping for his debut. A decent side was put forward and we were feeling optimistic.
It may only be my second away match but the beauty of Newcastle fans is that they make you feel at home anywhere. The atmosphere was great as our side put up an admirable fight in the first twenty minutes, pressing Palace and showing us a side which, to be honest, I’d have loved to have seen a bit earlier. Possession was largely ours and the fans were louder than i’ve heard in a while. A Diame touch at twenty two minutes to put the mags ahead, followed by many a rendition of our Mo Diame song.
The mood at this point was total elation. It looked as though we were outplaying Palace – only just, to be clear – but outplaying them all the same. Some of those around me couldn’t believe it; was this the change in our fortunes we’ve all been crossing our fingers for? It certainly looked like it could be. Jonjo Shelvey was playing a belter, moving the ball up the field at a much faster pace than we’ve seen from him recently, and with much more focus.
Towards the end of the first half Palace picked up their pace a bit. A shot around the 43 minute mark went wide, but was much too close for comfort. Newcastle alum (Ed: he used to play for us) Yohan Cabaye attempted another shot right before the whistle, going down after being tackled, but no free kick was awarded and the shot was sent away by Darlow. It was close, but we ended the half ahead, so the mood in the Arthur Wait stand was jubilant.
Going into the second half there was some traditional ‘get out of our club’ chanting from the Newcastle fans but generally the fans were there for the squad that were winning, keen to see if we could double our lead over the home team. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be – a penalty was awarded ten minutes into the second half to Palace for a shirt tug from Clark. It goes in – just about – past Darlow and it’s enough to bring the home side right back into the game. I’m not sure what their half time chat was, but whatever Roy Hodgson said got right under Palace’s skin and they came out guns blazing. It was honestly like a different side had shown up to play.
Quite soon after the equaliser Atsu is brought on for Kenedy, who had a decent match . It’s not too clear to the fans why this happened, but in Rafa we trust – there’s been no report of injury so it could just be keeping him as fit as possible for his first couple of matches. By about sixty minutes in, our side is doing their best to keep up with a totally energised Palace side. They have far, far more possession than us and we’re doing well to keep it at 1-1 at this point. For their part, the away fans didn’t lose any of their momentum. The singing and cheering went on as before, and the atmosphere was certainly not downbeat.
The last twenty minutes were played keeping Palace away from a winning goal. Perez being brought off for Merino did very little for the side, which was a shame as there was definitely hope around where I was standing that Merino would inject a bit more energy into the final ten minutes. A slight push before the whistle showed we hadn’t completely given up on the three points, but it wasn’t to be – the final whistle went in an anticlimactic end to the game.
Two points from two games where we need to be collecting more isn’t the end of the world but it’s certainly not where we’d want to be at this point in the season, especially not with yesterday’s results going against us. For what it’s worth, I’d say Diame was my Man of the Match for nipping our first goal in there and giving the crowd what they needed. On to Man United; here’s hoping Slimani is fit enough to throw a bit more energy into our team and bring the mags up to where they belong.
CHARLOTTE ROBSON- FOLLOW CHARLOTTE ON @charlottehope
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