We may have taken the lead, but it was all Palace in the second half, meaning we may just count ourselves lucky to come away with a point from this one.
Here’s my thoughtson each player’s performance and my marks out of 10 for each.
NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1): Darlow – Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – Diame, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy – Gayle
Darlow – 6.5 – Made several superb stops which kept us in it, however he was so mixed from crosses (hesitant one minute yet took some superbly in the first half). Distribution awful and was unlucky with the penalty. Will be frustrated not to have saved it. A few may say this is generous given how unconvincing he was in the second half, but, at the end of the day, we wound’t have come away with a point if he hadn’t have kept us in it in the first half.
Yedlin – 6 – Really struggled to cope with Zaha, who was an absolute menace for them throughout, although did make a crucial block to deny his goal-bound shot in the first half. Never stopped running though and didn’t give up. Tried to give us an out-ball on the break and made some decent bursts forward. Poor touch let him down a few times mind.
Clark – 6 – Gave away a slightly needless penalty for their goal (it was soft but you always risk this when you grab someones shirt). He redeemed himself late on however, making several brilliant last ditch blocks to deny certain goals. Another game which saw a few too many hopeful and wayward punts up the pitch mind (wasteful when Perez & Gayle are playing!).
Dummett – 7.5* – Another really solid display, with him keeping former Mag Andros Townsend at bay for the vast majority of the game. Also made some vital blocks and clearances to keep it at 1-1. He doesn’t offer much going forward, but it looks like his defensive reliability may enable Kenedy a bit of freedom to do damage at the other end.
Shelvey – 5.5 – Got us going in the first half and was pulling the string early doors, giving us some quality and cutting edge on the ball when we had decent spells of pressure and possession, but he faded in the second when we faced large spells without the ball. He tends to struggle and goes into his shell when the going gets tough. A talented player as we know, but was very quiet in the second half.
Diame – 7.5 – Reacted well to stab in his goal in the first half – a well deserved moment for him after arguably being our best player over the past few weeks. We struggled when he went off in the second half. He lost the ball carelessly a few times in the first half, but was playing with much more confidence once again, breaking up the play, putting himself about and spraying passes out wide.
Ritchie – 5 – Worked hard and made some important interceptions in the defensive third to help out Yedlin – including one superbly time sliding tackle in the box. Didn’t do enough in the attacking third, mind. Another game where his quality on the ball and involvement on the game in offensive areas was below what we expect given his vital importance to the team last season. What’s happened to his crossing?!
Perez – 4 – He had some better moments against Burnley in the week, but he was back to his frustrating old ways for large parts of the game today. Had two decent efforts in the first half and played a great ball in behind for Kenedy, but was too often weak and wasteful in the rare moments he got the ball in the final third. We’re crying out for Slimani, although he’ll need more from Perez in the 10 role if he’s going to get support.
Kenedy – 7 – Wasted a big chance for us to go 2-0 up in the first half, firing his close range shot straight at Hennessey after cutting inside, but provided another assist from the corner for Diame’s goal. Ran the game for large parts of the first half, showing more promising signs. His pace/power, skill and added quality on the ball giving us something different down that left. Looked a little leggy early in the second and was taken off early by Rafa, but should’ve done much better in a 2 on 1 situation, with his pass coming too late for Perez, wasting a big chance for us. Good signs, but he’ll be frustrated that he didn’t make it 2-0 for us.
Gayle – 3 – He didn’t do enough despite his efforts. Didn’t hold the ball, was rarely involved and wasn’t aware of him making good enough runs to give us a decent out-ball on the break. It was a thankless task for him during the majority of the second half, but he’s not offering enough – even if we’re not giving him the service he relies on. 12 games without a goal..
Atsu – Got into some half decent areas, but lacked conviction or confidence in most of what he did or attempted to do. A tame shot from a decent chance late being an example. I’d have far preferred to see Murphy come on and am a little baffled as to why Benitez isn’t giving him more of a chance?
Hayden – We had little of the ball while he was on. Put in a few important tackles, but he’s seeming nothing more than a spoiler when he plays CDM at the moment.
Merino – Appeared to play the no.10 role in the final few stages. Struggled to really get a hold of the ball and impact the game.