RAFAEL BENITEZ has told Mike Ashley he must be “more sensible” and “ready to do something” after Newcastle’s owner finally saw with his own eyes just how poor this team really is.

Not since May last year had Ashley attended a Newcastle match in person and his presence in the Selhurst Park directors’ box alongside managing director Lee Charnley and close aides Keith Bishop and Justin Barnes inevitably sparked a reaction from almost 3,000 fans in the away end.

“Get out of our club, you fat cockney b******,” went one chant. “We’re going to have a party when Ashley sells the club” was another from supporters whose position on the moral high ground was then significantly diminished by the hurling of a bottle that struck Palace defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka on a shoulder. Investigations by both the Football Association and the local constabulary are sure to follow.

That Benitez, whose contract is due to expire in the summer, has been frustrated by Ashley’s reluctance to match Premier League rivals in the transfer market is no secret. But the unexpected arrival of his employer - Benitez said he had known about it but his players did not - gave the Spaniard the ideal opportunity to make a public plea. That was all that was left to him really - Ashley and his entourage are understood to have left without seeking his counsel.

“I have to take this as a positive,” he said. “If he comes to see the team he can see his players, what we have, and hopefully he can be more sensible and then he will be ready to do something if we need to do it. I think he knows that, and he can do it.

“We have to be sure everyone supports the team, starting with the owner, and then we will be stronger.”

Not since May 2017, when promotion back to the Premier League was celebrated following a 3-0 home win over Barnsley, has Ashley watched the club he owns.

“I have no idea why he chose today to come, but it is a positive,” added Benitez, whose team are now third from bottom on goal difference following defeats elsewhere for Cardiff and Huddersfield.

Newcastle have already failed to beat the Bluebirds and would have lost this one had Mamadou Sakho not headed wide of an open goal late on.

Defeats by Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal underlined the immense gulf in class between the sides at the top and those at the other end. Benitez had been criticised for his ultra-defensive tactics in those games but the Palace performance underlined that a strong defence is really all he has - the squad is crying out for a goal-scorer and a player with pace in the final third.

“If you analyse all the games, we played against four top sides, and we were close,” Benitez said. “I am not saying we deserved anything, but we were close and could have got more.

“We did all we could do in terms of effort and we have to improve on the ball. Two or three passes and we could do more, we are missing the final pass.

“We have to wait until January and in the meantime we have to give everything. We have a lot to do now, but if the team work as hard as they did today and if you score first against teams who are not in the top six, then it can change everything. We have to have the belief we can do it and we have to keep working hard on the training ground.”

Palace were the better side though and could have been ahead within a minute. James McArthur’s header was too high however, and Newcastle’s back-line stood firm in the main despite the conceding of far too many free-kicks in dangerous areas, one of which, launched by Luka Milivojevic, bounced back off a post.

Newcastle fashioned only a few clear chances themselves and the best was the first. James Tomkins’ error allowed Ayoze Perez a run on goal but he shot straight at goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey. Two Jamaal Lascelles headers set off alarm bells in the home defence not long afterwards, but Newcastle rarely threatened in the last half-hour by which time Joselu had replaced Salomon Rondon up front and seen an acrobatic effort saved.

The Sakho miss was a shocker though. Former Newcastle man Andros Townsend curled in a cross that the otherwise-excellent Martin Dubravka failed to collect, but somehow the centre-back nodded wide of an untended goal. A miss of the season contender if ever there was one.