Newcastle 1-0 Crystal Palace: Townsend punishes tired Palace - 5 things we learned

Written by FYP Fanzine

1. A game reflective of the league season

The general feeling among Palace fans was that the first half against Newcastle United was a good one. Palace had forced the issue, controlled possession and looked the better side. Opportunities to score were rare but we still looked the side most capable of winning the game.

However, much like Palace's league form this season, that first half of excellence petered out into a disappointing trudge to the finish line. Newcastle took advantage of a free kick in a dangerous position and the rest is history.

This Palace side needs to be more clinical when it comes to league matches. It's a bit late to say so with just two matches remaining, but it does. There have been a few too many league games this season where decent starts have been let down by poorer second halves.

2. FA Cup fatigue is real

One of the criticisms we've seen oft repeated in response to Palace's poor second half of the season is that the FA Cup has papered over some major cracks.

Arguably, the cracks we've seen are likely to have been created by what has been an incredibly challenging (but brilliantly rewarding) cup run.

Accounting for Palace's injury problems since December, the remaining squad has been tasked with playing an additional five competitive matches, all at a level required to win each one. There have been no 'easy' ties in this run - beating Southampton, Stoke, Tottenham and Watford along the way - with the majority playing strong sides too.

A fully fit Palace side might have dealt with the fatigue better. As it is, this injury-ravaged side have lost every league match directly after a cup fixture. If there's anything to learn from it, it's that this squad still lacks depth to be competitive on multiple fronts. With the focus going on the FA Cup, the league form has disappointingly suffered.

3. Hennessey takes a step backwards

Wayne Hennessey has come under a lot of stick this season from Palace fans; some of it justified some of it not, but there’s no denying his improvement in recent weeks. He was superb in the wins over Norwich and Watford.

However one regular criticism of his game is his footwork and again it came under inspection up at St James Park after Andros Townsend’s free-kick. The Welshman appeared to take a step to the left as the shot was taken only to see it fly in to his right side as he dived that was but couldn’t get near it.

Would he have had more of a chance if he hadn’t gambled on that step to the left? Possibly. And should a keeper be taking a step to the side of the goal already covered by the wall? Probably not, that is what the wall is there for after all.

It’s a shame after a few good weeks where Hennessey has shown why Pardew starts him but sadly it’s another week where his decision making comes under the spotlight.

4. McArthur is back and it’s like he’s never been away

One of the positives from Saturday’s game was the return of James McArthur to the starting lineup. The Scot has been absent for a while thanks to an ankle injury. Indeed the injury picked up at the start of February was so bad he himself suggested on Twitter he might not be seen again this season.

But he returned off the bench at Watford last weekend and was back in the starting lineup St James Park. And it was like he’s never been away. The tenacious midfielder wasn’t at his best but still showed what Palace had missed over the last three months with an energetic display in the middle of the park.

He was replaced just after the hour but showed enough to hint that he could play an important part in the Eagles final three games of the season.

5. Puncheon is not a winger

Like McArthur Puncheon is a recent returner from injury and in the past few weeks has been fantastic; he scored the winner against Norwich and was brilliant against Everton and Watford in that FA Cup semi-final win.

But he’s been brilliant because he’s been played in that number 10 role in the hole behind the lone forward. It’s a role that gives him freedom to drift into spaces between the opposition defence and midfield and it’s one he thrives in.

Unfortunately at Newcastle he was asked to play out wide again and we’ve seen before it’s a position he struggles to have an impact in. There is a big responsibility on defending while playing there, which he doesn’t shirk, but it means his involvement in the areas he is dangerous diminishes.

Unfortunately due to Zaha's injury he was forced to play there but with Bolasie also having an indifferent game on the other flank Palace struggled to create decent chances. Because of the formation we play when the wingers are on form we are almost unstoppable but when they aren’t (or aren’t playing) there doesn’t appear to be a Plan B.

This was another of those days. Maybe some backup wingers are needed in the summer. I hear there’s an England international winger at Newcastle who might be available if they go down…