For Steve Bruce, anything would have been an improvement on his side’s last two performances. The embattled Newcastle manager arrived in south London with criticism still ringing his ears following two successive 2-0 defeats and left with the club’s first victory at this ground since 2013 thanks to two goals in the last three minutes from Callum Wilson – his seventh of the season – and Joelinton.
On a night that was characterised by a series of missed chances at either end before Newcastle eventually broke the deadlock, only the Brazilian’s third Premier League goal since his £40m move from Hoffenheim in 2019 came minutes after he had passed up a gilt-edged opportunity to give his side the lead. But after teeing up Wilson’s smart finish 60 seconds earlier, a huge deflection when his shot struck Gary Cahill ensured it was very much Newcastle’s night in the end.
“The players have responded at the end of a tough week – winning late on is not a bad trait to have,” admitted Bruce, before turning his attention to Joelinton. “It doesn’t matter about price tag and where you come from, sometimes you need time. In Joe’s case, the price tag and No 9 shirt meant he struggled at times. But the kid wants to do well and now hopefully we will see the best of him.”
Given that the last seven matches between these two sides had only produced seven goals, the television audience watching at home were probably not tuning in expecting much Friday night entertainment. Newcastle came into the match having had fewer shots than any other team in the division so the return of Wilson from injury at least offered Bruce a focal point to his attack, even if they were missing the creativity of Allan Saint-Maximin due to a muscle injury.
Palace have now lost 15 of their past 17 Premier League fixtures without Wilfried Zaha, whose partner gave birth to a son on Friday as the Ivory Coast international continues to isolate following his positive Covid test, and they badly missed their talisman here despite creating several decent chances.
Bruce had admitted Newcastle must improve considerably after the defeats against Chelsea and Southampton and the visitors had managed four shots by the 20th minute as they pushed Palace back into their own half, although none that really troubled Vicente Guaita.
Their opponents finally registered a first shot of the match soon afterwards when Karl Darlow was equal to Eberechi Eze’s effort from roughly where he scored his first Premier League goal from a direct free-kick against Leeds. The Newcastle goalkeeper has made more saves than anyone in the league this season as he continues to deputise for Martin Dubravka and Bruce may find it hard to reinstate the Slovakian given Darlow’s form. A one-handed reaction stop at his near post to deny a thunderbolt shot from Jeffrey Schlupp was truly outstanding and, much to his manager’s relief, kept his side level.
Palace started the second half on the front foot and should have gone in front when Cheikhou Kouyaté rose to meet a corner but could only plant his header way over the bar. Despite their usual defensive proficiency, however, Roy Hodgson’s side have still only achieved one clean sheet this season and Newcastle could have broken the deadlock much earlier if Joelinton had shown more awareness after linking up with Jeff Hendrick.
Wilson was next to spurn his opportunity after meeting Javier Manquillo’s cross from the right flank before substitute Christian Benteke’s header failed to trouble Darlow in what seemed like a recurring theme.
Yet if those attempts were bad, Joelinton still had something worse up his sleeve. Substitute Matt Ritchie’s cross was begging to be headed past Guaita but the Brazilian made only the faintest of contact with the ball and immediately dropped to his knees in embarrassment. Benteke’s header from Patrick Van Aanholt’s cross with 10 minutes still to play finally managed to force Darlow into another save. It was Palace who looked most likely to snatch victory at the death as Michy Batshauyi was inches away from turning in Van Aanholt’s cross but Wilson and Joelinton had other ideas. “All defeats hurt and this one did as we didn’t play well,” admitted Hodgson.