OUR columnist and Crystal Palace fan ALISDAIR KEMP wasn't entirely happy with what he saw from the Eagles in Neil Warnock's first game back in charge...
A last-gasp equaliser always induces an outpouring of emotion, let alone when provided by a popular source with a gripping back-story. Last Saturday's 95th minute goal from Wilfried Zaha did just that and in the aftermath of such a breathtaking and euphoric end to proceedings at St James' Park, it feels as though a wave of excessive optimism has swept among the Palace faithful.
Certainly there were some encouraging performances from the likes of Dwight Gayle, Jason Puncheon and Martin Kelly – who seamlessly marked Remy Cabella out of the game – but Zaha's dramatic injury-time flourish has somewhat papered over the cracks of a shaky performance.
Woeful set-piece defending, persistent fouling and profligacy on the counter-attack are of particular concern.
With five goals conceded from set-pieces in just three league games this season, we have been shooting ourselves in the foot emphatically. In the Premier League it is difficult enough to defend against attacks from open play, with the high, relentless tempo and multi-million pound talent conducting it. Set-pieces should be no more difficult to deal with this season than they were in the Championship.
With less movement and more time for defenders to get into shape, goals should rarely, if ever, be conceded from corners and free-kicks. Yet we leaked two against Arsenal – a team with an actual notoriety for rarely scoring from dead balls – and look to have learned nothing from it. It was only Newcastle's lacklustre deliveries and positioning that enabled us to save face.
Saturday also saw an unwelcome return to the least admirable facet of Neil Warnock's previous Palace side: excessive and sometimes cynical, fouling. I was disappointed by the number of stoppages in the game that were forced by our attempts to disrupt any momentum that Newcastle tried to build.
Teams that adopt such a negative approach often do so out of desperation and an inferiority complex. We have more than enough talent to match up technically against the likes of Newcastle so one can but hope that we henceforth choose to exploit that ability rather than resort to unsporting conduct that simply dilutes the spectacle (football is after all an entertainment sport).
Another concern was our wastefulness in attack following swift, clinical breaks. The counter-attacks themselves should provide some cause for optimism – albeit tempered by the fact that Newcastle's attacking full backs often left alarming amounts of space for us to surge into.
All too often either the final ball or the attempt on goal was a hurried anti-climax to an exciting move. Zaha himself was guilty of wasting a couple of opportunities, while Yannick Bolasie is still labouring under the impression that the crossbar is located up in row Z.
The performance on Tyneside was certainly an improvement, with Neil Warnock seemingly having injected greater energy and urgency into the side. However, fans must not allow the last-minute heroics to blind them to the problems that persist.
Judgment should be reserved until after the international break, as Warnock has begun to stamp his authority on the squad.