Not a great exhibition

After out less than inspiring performance at West Ham, we welcome 21st-placed Crystal Palace to St. James Park. We’re evens favourites, but Palace have Sean Scannell up front and he always seems to score against us, not to mention how poor we were last time out. I make two changes, with Jagos Vukovic coming in for Sean Morrison and Ryan Mason (who is making his 50th career appearance for us) for Michel; Bertin Matip also reaches a milestone as he makes his 25th career appearance. We start well and in the 9th minute, Mason plays in Dacian Varga, but Larsen-Kwaresey turns it behind for a corner. It proves to be a vital save for Palace, who score four minutes later. Pele plays a long ball forward, Scannell runs on to it and slots it past Jonathan Bond from 16 yards, confirming all my pre-match fears. Varga has another attempt in the 18th minute, but it’s straight at Larsen-Kwaresey – he can’t hold on to it, but Palace are able to clear. It takes until the 40th minute for further action of note to happen when Jonny Hayes shoots over from 20 yards. In stoppage time, Mason slides in Michele Marconi, but Larsen-Kwaresey is out quickly, smothers and Palace are able to preserve their lead going in to half time.

A slow start springs in to life in the 58th minute when Marrow plays in Cox, who rounds Bond and scores to extend Palace’s lead. We’re certainly showing no signs of an improved performance after our trip to West Ham, although Hayes goes close from 20 yards 4 minutes after we go two-down. Matip picks up a yellow card in the 64th minute and I make a double substitution, with Morrison replacing Gennaro Riccardi and Federico Cenci coming on for Varga. A minute after coming on, Cenci is fouled and Marrow picks up a yellow card. Cenci proves to be an inspired change – in the 69th minute, he runs down the left, cuts inside and curls a shot past Larsen-Kwaresey and in off the far post for his 8th goal of the season. It’s a great goal and I’m uncertain where it’s come from considering the previous 68 minutes. Aiman Mustafa comes on for Marconi in the 72nd minute, but neither side is able to carve out any more chances and Palace leave with all three points. Federico Cenci’s 26 minute cameo is enough to win Man of the Match, with a rating of 8.1 and a goal and we stay 4th.

Following another disappointing performance and result, we welcome two more players on trial for a week: Uruguayan striker Carlos Maria Tabarez and Cameroonian ML/ST Jean-Baptiste Wamba. Covnetry offer to loan Konstantin Manov for a month and it’s agreed by all parties.

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