Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson felt the Premier League mid-season break helped them to a much-needed 1-0 win over Newcastle, their first victory of 2020.
Patrick Van Aanholt’s brilliant 45th-minute free kick was the difference between the two clubs, although the Eagles would have added to their tally had visiting goalkeeper Martin Dubravka not been in such good form.
He made key saves to deny Gary Cahill and Scott Dann in the first half, while Jordan Ayew was unable to grab the goal his performance deserved.
After losing to Everton on February 8, Palace’s players were able to enjoy some down time before returning to training this week with a bounce in their step.
“It helped,” Hodgson said. “We used the mid-season break for what it was intended. We didn’t try to continue pounding them on patterns of play and the things we work on every day.
“We encouraged the players to take the wife away and take the family away and forget about football.
“Of course we gave them a physical training programme, but they wanted that. The way professional football players are today, they wouldn’t have thanked you for saying don’t do anything.
“They would knock on the door and ask about what running should we do, how often should I go to the gym so we gave them that and I think they all followed it diligently.
“When they came back there was a bounce in everyone’s step and our training this week has been really, really good. I thought it showed in some of our movements.”
Palace were the better side from the start, but did not find the breakthrough until the stroke of half-time.
Van Aanholt curled around the wall and scored to end the Eagles long wait for a first half goal at Selhurst Park – a run stretching back to September 28.
With Hodgson expected to sign a new contract shortly, it was the perfect response to a three-game losing streak and while they are now nine points above the relegation zone, the 72-year-old is not getting carried away with a trip to rivals Brighton up next.
He added: “It is a very important game and we have to try and reproduce this performance because we are not going to be safe until such time when the gap between us and the team lying third from bottom is so great, they can’t catch us.”
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce cut a frustrated figure after they suffered a second straight defeat in the capital, following a 4-0 thrashing at Arsenal last Sunday.
“We’re disappointed. The big Achilles heel is there and blatantly obviously today,” he said.
“We never asked their defenders to defend properly or their goalkeeper to make a save so maybe it is time for change.
“Maybe it is time we try something different to have a look at. I couldn’t fault their effort and endeavour, they didn’t stop in that respect, but the final thing, the final cross and final ball in the final third has been lacking.”
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