Video: Newcastle 1-0 Crystal Palace – Townsend stunner lifts Newcastle out of the bottom three

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Newcastle United moved out of the bottom three with a vital 1-0 over Crystal Palace at St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon.

Andros Townsend was the goalscorer, as his free-kick midway through the second proved to be enough for the win.

Rafa Benitez made one change from the starting side that fought back to draw against Liverpool, with midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum replacing striker Ayoze Perez.

Crystal Palace also made one change from the team that beat Watford in the FA Cup semi-final, with James McArthur coming in for Wilfried Zaha.

Before the game even kicked off there was a touching moment, as Newcastle fans united to sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ during a minute’s applause in honour of the Hillsborough victims. Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, who donated £96,000 to the Hillsborough justice fund, was visibly moved on the touchline.

Once the action got going there was an air of caginess about the home side; Benitez obviously wanted to give the crowd something to shout about, but was conscious of conceding the all-important first goal.

The first chance came after ten minutes, as Papiss Cisse was almost clean through but was stopped by an excellent Scott Dann tackle. Moments later there was a carbon copy at the other end, with Jamaal Lascelles stopping the breaking Connor Wickham.

The action briefly brought Newcastle to life, as Andros Townsend wasted two good chances and Wijnaldum forced Hennessey into a good stop.

Thereafter the game entered a lull, and there wasn’t another clear-cut chance Karl Darlow made a good one-handed save after Cabaye’s shot from a narrow-angle.

Chancel Mbemba then tested Hennessey from 40 yards and Darlow kept out a Bolasie volley, leaving the teams to go in for the break with the score at 0-0.

It was a slow start to the second half, but the crucial breakthrough eventually came in the 58th minute. Scott Dann hacked down Andros Townsend twenty yards from goal, and the former Spurs man dusted himself off to curl a wonderful freekick into the top corner, giving Hennessey no chance. St James’ Park was bouncing.

With 20 minutes to go there was major drama. Moussa Sissoko inexplicably handled the ball from a Cabaye corner, and Mike Dean pointed straight to the spot.

Cabaye stepped up to take the penalty in front of the Gallowgate end, knowing that a goal would be disastrous to his former club’s survival hopes. Boos rang out around the stadium and Cabaye looked nervous. It was a poor penalty, and Newcastle’s third-choice keeper Karl Darlow made himself a hero, diving to his left to keep it out. The Newcastle fans celebrated wildly.

Newcastle started to sit deeper and deeper, but despite a couple of late scares they held on for a vital win.

It means Newcastle move up to 17th and out of the drop-zone – though Sunderland and Norwich are both within striking distance given their games in hand.

Palace stay 16th, but are safe from relegation.

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Next up for Newcastle is a trip to the already-relegated Aston Villa. They end their season with a home game against Spurs.

Palace host Stoke next weekend, then they travel to Southampton on the final day. Both games are meaningless to the fans, with all eyes on the FA Cup final against Man Utd on 21st May.

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