Magpies soar above Palace

Posted by Lee Ryder

Christopher Lee/Getty ImagesYohan Cabaye opened the scoring for Newcastle in an emphatic 3-0 win at Crystal Palace.

Newcastle United were head and shoulders above Crystal Palace today at Selhurst Park as they continued their challenge for the top six. The Magpies dominated in south London from start to finish to stay in sixth spot in the Premier League.

- Report: Crystal Palace 0-3 Newcastle

And perhaps the secret of this victory was the fact that Newcastle went about their game like a team at the business end of the top flight should be approaching life. In beating the Eagles so convincingly, United can enjoy their Christmas dinner in the knowledge that they remain in the hunt for a European place.

Alan Pardew has tried hard to manage expectations this season, but should United's form slump in part two of the campaign, even he would admit such a nosedive would be disappointing. However, should they keep up this type of form, they have every chance of at least staying in that race into the new year.

In theory, they should be picking off teams like Crystal Palace. In reality though, this is the type of game they usually slip up in.

Not this time though. After only managing to pick up a point at home to Southampton, this was the perfect response.

Tony Pulis had proved to be a bit of a thorn in Newcastle's side over the years with his side's uncompromising tactics. They were no pushovers and did give it a go, but they couldn't live with Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko down the right hand side as they prodded and probed out wide. It was no surprise that Newcastle's opener came from that area of the field as Sissoko bulldozed his way past Marouane Chamakh before clipping in a perfect cross for Yohan Cabaye to apply the finish and open the scoring with 25 minutes on the clock.

Rather than sit back on that lead though, United continued to press and after Sissoko linked up with the excellent Debuchy, it ended in disaster for Palace as Danny Gabbidon turned it past his own keeper.

That was as good as game over for Palace, but United still had a job to do. Palace did have a decent spell of pressure in the first part of the second half, but Newcastle ploughed on and weathered a storm, although it was super subs Hatem Ben Arfa and Shola Ameobi who combined to put the lid on things.

Ben Arfa had already picked out Yoan Gouffran before the French star hit the post with his shot after the playmaker's fine run. When Shola Ameobi was fouled in the box though, Ben Arfa took the responsibility before ramming home the spot-kick to make it 3-0.

As the rain lashed down after the final whistle, the Newcastle players tossed their shirts into the crowd and deserved to milk the celebrations. After all, United have 30 points in the bag more than two months before they reached the same stage last season. They are in the top six on merit, and if you really want to get carried away, they are just six points behind Man City and Liverpool.

With two festive games to look forward to at St James' Park against Stoke City and then Arsenal, there is no reason why United shouldn't believe that they can keep pace with sides that have spent more money than them this term. For that to happen, though, they will need to ensure that injuries remain kind to them.

And don't forget Steven Taylor, Paul Dummett and Jonas Gutierrez couldn't even get a place in the squad today while Papiss Cisse, Mapou Yanga Mbiwa and Massadio Haidara didn't even get off the bench.

Pardew has options in his team and will almost certainly rotate things for the FA Cup in a fortnight's time against crisis club Cardiff City. Whether they want to go that extra mile and try to even push for the top four depends on spending in January in the eyes of many. That extra player or two with the X-factor could make a season that threatened to bubble into a disaster for Pardew, Joe Kinnear and Mike Ashley into a fairytale nobody expected.

True, there are still issues on the field: United's view on banning fans from the supporters' forum has not cooled and nor has the PR own goal that was banning local papers from using their media facilities. Also, they aren't maximising every avenue to sell season tickets or shirts.

But that isn't what Newcastle United and Pardew is about at the moment. The only team that counts is the one on the pitch and the one in the stands.

And supporters are loving it. Make no doubt about that.

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