Newcastle United MUST stay on the front foot at St James’s Park – and carry on up the table.
That’s the verdict of Jamaal Lascelles ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Crystal Palace.
Newcastle are 14th in the division, and seven points above the relegation zone, with six games left to play.
United, beaten by Arsenal on Monday night, are three points short of manager Rafa Benitez’s own 38-point safety target ahead of the clash with Roy Hodgson’s Eagles.
“I think last year we made a bit of a mistake when we were safe and took our feet off the gas a little bit – we lost four out of our five last games,” said defender Lascelles, Newcastle’s captain.
“We need to make sure we’re safe. There’s still a lot to play for, and we’ll try and finish as high as we can. Them and Liverpool are probably two of the biggest teams we’ve got left to play, and we’ve crossed that off.
“Look at the other games. Our home games are important.”
A run of five successive home wins, stretching back to mid-January, has gone a long way to securing the club’s Premier League status.
Miguel Almiron has combined well with Salomon Rondon, signed on loan last summer, at home since joining from Atlanta United in January in a deal which could cost the club £21million with add-ons.
And Lascelles believes United are now as dangerous at St James’s Park as they ever have been under Benitez.
“I think, defensively, we’ve been pretty consistent throughout the last two years,” said Lascelles.
“Since Rondon’s come in and Almiron’s come in, I think we’ve really stepped up going forward.
“We’re more creative and we’re scoring more goals.
“We’re more of a threat now. I think getting some players in has definitely had a big impact and was a turning point in our season.”
United, however, haven’t won away from home since beating Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium in mid-December.
Asked if he could explain the disparity, Lascelles said: “I’m not too sure.
“Probably the opposition. It’s just football. I don’t really know what it is.
“I think, over the years, we’ve done pretty well away from home, especially in the Championship season. It’s just football for you.”
Lascelles returned to the starting XI against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium after recovering from the knee problem which had kept him out against Bournemouth 16 days earlier.
“I feel fine,” said the 25-year-old.
“Injuries haven’t really come at the right time this season, but I feel fine now.
“Hopefully, I can stay fit and finish off the season stronger.”
Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette were on target for Arsenal, who moved up to third place in the Premier League with Monday’s victory.
“We knew it was going to be hard, but we had a gameplan,” said Lascelles.
“Since the manager’s been in charge, we’ve upset a few of the big teams with a gameplan and good tactics. We’d been working hard in training to do that, but I think they had a bit too much quality.
“The first goal was scrappy as anything. It was bouncing off people, and it fell to Ramsey perfectly.
“At the Emirates against Arsenal, it was always going to be a big fight to get back from that.
“First-half, I thought it was going to be anyone’s game. Second-half, it was maybe a bit too defensive, and it was hard for us to get out.
“We’ll look at what we could have done better and go again.”
Palace are a place above United in the table.
“It’s a big game for us,” said Lascelles. “We’d like to finish ahead of them, and to do that we need to beat them on Saturday.
“It’ll be a tough game, but this (defeat at Arsenal) won’t dent our confidence at all.
“We’ll go into that game (against Palace) with a lot of confidence in front of our home fans and we’ll look to get three points.”
Andros Townsend – who spent the second half of the 2015-16 season on loan at Newcastle – will be in the Palace team.
Asked about the winger, Lascelles said: “They’ve got good players going forward – there’s him, (Wilfried) Zaha, (Christian) Benteke.
“I think if we defend well, we’ll be fine.
“It’s back to the drawing board, the training pitch. We’ll get our heads down and go again.”