Roy Hodgson believes the winter break helped contribute to Crystal Palace claiming all three points in what was a largely one sided victory over Newcastle United.
A mere single goal by Patrick van Aanholt, a sublime free kick on the stroke of half time, may have, statistically separated the sides, but Palace in truth should have won by much more against Steve Bruce’s insipid visitors.
The Magpies were curtailed for most of the clash and they offered precious little going forward. Their goalkeeper, Martin Dubravka, was responsible for restricting the score line, having denied the Eagles on a number of occasions with fine saves in the first half.
Palace now find themselves two points ahead of Newcastle, a welcome enough guide following a disappointing recent run, where they had been without a win since beating West Ham on 26 December.
Relief, therefore, for Hodgson with Palace now 13th in the Premier League.
“I think it (the break) helped,” said the Palace boss. “We used the mid season break for what it was intended. We encourage the players to get away and forget about football, but they do train. And when they came back there was a bounce in their step. We’ve got to try and reproduce this and extend the margin between us and the team third bottom.
Hodgson was also gratified by Jordan Ayew, central to Palace’s desire at Selhurst Park as well as the Eagles’ overall display.
He explained: “What he is doing for the team is incredible. It would have been nice for him to cap that (performance) with a goal. He knows how much this victory meant to us as a team after three straight defeats. Today to get the victory and a fairly dominant one against a close rival is pleasing.
“Today was about stabilising. If we’d lost today that would have been four defeats. That change perceptions. What can we do better? Our job is to make certain in that vacuum we create we know we’re good enough.
“It was a game where we should have been more comfortable in. Throughout the ninety minutes we were comfortable but just lacking that other goal.”
“Over 38 games luck does even itself out. If you play badly and don’t create enough chances and have the right resilience those are the things that cost you. But we’ve worked very hard on those things.”
As expected, Hodgson was pleased with match winner Van Aanholt.
“He was excellent of course,” he said. “We rate him very highly and the level of technical ability he has. When he actually produces and takes responsibility. When he tells me he can deliver that’s the sort of confidence I like to see.”
Meanwhile, there are now growing concerns for Bruce, who witnessed another poor display by Newcastle in the capital, in the wake of last weekend’s 4-0 drubbing by Arsenal.
“We’re disappointed and our achillies heel was obvious today,” said the Magpies manager. “We gave the ball away cheaply and our play broke down too often. Maybe it’s time for change and we try something different and have a look at. But I couldn’t fault their effort.
“I didn’t think we deserved to win the game and when that happens you have to accept the consequences. When we got to the last third we just didn’t do enough. Where it really matters at the top end of the pitch we weren’t good enough.
“We kept going until the end but we have to be more of a goal threat to win a match in the Premier League. We didn’t cause enough problems.”