By Tom Hayward
LONDON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Alan Pardew praised the return to form of French midfielder Yohan Cabaye after his Newcastle United side beat struggling Crystal Palace 3-0 in the rain at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
The Magpies have now won six of their last eight Premier League fixtures to move up to sixth spot and are three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea who visit Arsenal on Monday.
Their run has coincided with the resurgence of France playmaker Cabaye who opened the scoring for the visitors and put on an impressive display in awful conditions in South London.
On Cabaye's return to form Pardew told reporters: "I think it's important to be honest with a player and I've just been honest with him and he respects that. The bottom line is that the player is a true character and has that X-factor.
"And when you're at the top of the premiership you can't stay there without that and he really provided that for us.
"Having said that I thought (Fabricio) Coloccini and (Mathieu) Debuchy were absolutely outstanding, as was Cheick Tiote. But it is difficult to single out individual players because today really was a team performance."
Cabaye's goal, which was a similar strike to his winner at Manchester United earlier this month, was followed by a Danny Gabbidon own goal and a late Hatem Ben Arfa penalty which put the gloss on another comfortable win for Newcastle.
"It is always difficult to play against a team who are fighting relegation," Cabaye told Newcastle's website (www.nufc.co.uk). "We knew this place would be hard, with a small pitch and a good atmosphere, but we had a good mentality.
"To win, score three goals and keep a clean sheet was perfect before two home games. It helps us stay high in the league, where we want to be."
But Pardew, who guided Newcastle to a fifth-place finish in 2011-12, declined to discuss repeating that feat this season.
"I'll let people talk about it. It sounds like a bit of a cliche but for us it's just about the here and now. But we are playing really well at the moment," he added.
"If we can beat Stoke on Boxing Day, then Arsenal won't be feeling too good about coming up and playing us. We are very thorough in our professionalism, we're confident and everybody is doing their job."
Newcastle's victory, their fifth consecutive win at Selhurst Park, came against a Palace side who displayed a lack of organisation, which was something Tony Pulis worked hard to address during their first four games under his management.
"The two goals we conceded today were very poor," the former Stoke City boss told reporters. "We've been solid and disciplined but today we gifted two poor goals against a team that I think will finish in the top eight."
"We have to do well in our home games because our next two away games (at Aston Villa and Manchester City) are difficult.
"I remain optimistic. You're going to have bad runs and you're going to have good runs so we just have to dust ourselves down," added Pulis. (Reporting by Tom Hayward; Editing by Ken Ferris)