Palace 0-0 Newcastle: Positives to take but signings needed for top four finish?

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An opportunity missed from Newcastle United on Saturday night, as plenty of flowing football was followed by too much tame finishing in a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park.

We dominated the game throughout and will be frustrated we couldn’t convert a series of half chances, but there’s still plenty of positives to take back to Tyneside.

Six successive league clean sheets – Nick Pope hasn’t concede for almost 14 hours – eight away games unbeaten, plenty of good football and a result that means Eddie Howe has become the first English manager this century to go unbeaten in 15 Premier League games.

It’s a shame we couldn’t move eight points clear of fifth, with this result leaving us six ahead of Spurs in fifth, but we’re up to third and go into next week’s Carabao Cup semi-final in good shape.

Who knows, our issues in the final third may give us that push to bring in the necessary quality over the final 10 days of the January transfer window, as three of our last four Premier League games have now ended 0-0.

Bruno Guimaraes was somehow fit enough to start – and incredible recovery given he hobbled off in tears just six days ago – meaning it was an unchanged side, featuring Joelinton on the left and Callum Wilson up top, leaving Allan Saint-Maximin an Alexander Isak on the bench once again.

We made a confident start. Joe Willock was getting joy down the left, creating our first chance after a lovely give and go between him and Bruno led to a back post shot Miguel Almiron shinned wide.

More flowing football followed and Dan Burn was the next to go close, smashing a perfectly timed effort on target from the edge of the box after some good work between Longstaff, Almiron and Trippier down the right.

We were a joy to watch at times in the first half. Schar and Botman showed their class to sweep up effortlessly, Longstaff and Bruno were keeping the ball moving brilliantly, a lively Willock was offering a constant outlet down the left and Almiron looking dangerous on the opposite flank, forcing a few corners as he threatened to get in behind. That said, I did feel Wilson looked slightly sluggish and well below his best.

We were dominating possession, showing lots of great movement, looked confident on the ball and full of ideas, but needed to make the most of that with a sprinkle of quality that had been lacking in the final third.

On the half hour mark we’d had 63% possession and hadn’t conceded a single shot to the home side. Nick Pope was a spectator once again and the big man would’ve been wondering how we didn’t make the most of our first half dominance when Joelinton saw a close range effort stopped on the line by Guaita.

We did survive two late scares in first-half stoppage time, however. Zaha got in behind from a simple ball over the top, sneaking in between Trippier and Schar, but the former recovered well to force a corner that was then headed over from Richards; who should’ve done better after rising highest from six yards out.

No changes at the break and a similar pattern of play followed. After some good work from Joelinton helped force a corner, Almiron went short and Trippier’s inviting cross found Wilson, only for our number nine to fire a tame free header straight at Guaita.

Our reliable right-back went into the book moments later for pulling back Zaha, yet the tricky winger went down with a hamstring injury seconds after. He came back onto the field but wasn’t moving freely, allowing us to have some joy down Palace’s right. One of those was from a corner, as Botman headed Trippier’s teasing delivery wide. Another half chance missed with 30 minutes remaining.

A triple sub followed from Palace, where Zaha and Eze both came off, and Howe responded with two changes of his own, seeing Saint-Maximin and Isak replace Wilson and Willock. The latter got plenty of joy via driving runs down the left, but it just didn’t quite come off for him in the final third.

With 73 minutes on the clock, we had Pope to thank for a simply stunning save to keep us level. He’d barely been tested to this point, but pulled off a world class stop to deny Mateta as his reflexes came up trumps to tip the Frenchman’s powerful snapshot away for a corner.

The next chance fell to Isak. Trippier was the creator once again, swinging in a perfectly flighted ball from the byline, however the Swedish striker could only head straight at Guaita as the theme of tame efforts in the final third continued for the Toon.

Palace were struggling to get out or cause us issues on the counter without Zaha and Eze, leaving us pushing for a late winner with 10 remaining. Our final change then followed, seeing Jacob Murphy replace Almiron in hope he’d help us to another late 1-0 win.

Murphy almost made an immediate impact, flashing a ball across the box that just missed Isak. The ball found its way to Saint-Maximin at the back post, but his effort was deflected over.

Four minutes were added on and, aside from some handbags between Joelinton and Olise, there was no late action as it ended all square. A shame to miss out on all three points on a night where we always looked the better side, but these could be valuable lessons to learn with 10 days left to do business.

It shows how far we’ve come that a clean sheet, dominant display and draw away at Crystal Palace feels like a bad result.

Next up, a trip to Southampton for the first of two Carabao Cup semi-final clashes!

4-3-3): Pope – Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn – Longstaff, Guimaraes, Willock – Almiron, Wilson, Joelinton.

SUBS: Dubravka, Lascelles, Saint-Maximin, Ritchie, Lewis, Isak, Manquillo, Murphy, Anderson.

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