Oxford United (a) FA Cup Fourth Round
Half time: U's 0 Toon 0
46 mins Barely
50 seconds after the restart, United conceded a right wing corner that was
played short and centred by Chris Maguire for Chey Dunkley to head back
across goal and Kane Hemmings to bundle home from
close range in front of the home support in the East Stand 0-1
79 mins Curtis Good made a
vital interception at the expense of a corner down the Oxford left. Rob Hall sent
that over to the back
post for Curtis Nelson to shrug off a
half-hearted challenge by Isaac Hayden before heading home 0-2
Full time: U's 3 Toon 0
"You have to give credit to them as they were fighting for the result and we just made too many mistakes and paid for the first one at the start of the second half.
"We had to make the changes. It is very clear. I said before the
game that if we were going to go through, it had to be with the squad, and if
we couldn’t do that, then we couldn’t.
"I feel sorry for the fans and for us, as we wanted to go through
and we could've done on the chances created in the first half. It's something
we need to analyse and find out why we made the mistakes we did and be ready
for the next game.
“We didn’t mark properly from the corners and we gave the ball away. You have to give credit to them because they were fighting for the result and we made too many mistakes.
“We knew about Oxford’s quality, we did our homework and we analysed almost everything.
“In the end, football is a game that you have to take your chances - we had ours and we didn’t take them.”
"Mitrovic was working hard for his chances. I was not thinking of playing him for 90 minutes, but he was getting the chances. He was unlucky.”
"For me personally, with the squad
Newcastle have got, this surpasses beating Arsenal at the Emirates when I
was at Blackburn (in the fifth round four years ago). That's how big this
Given that it's now eleven seasons since Newcastle advanced beyond the FA Cup
Fourth Round or won an away tie, this latest exit barely counts as an
However, there was enough evidence in the first 45 minutes to suggest that those on show were good enough to overcome a mid-table third tier outfit. Sadly though, our perennial weaknesses of defending set-pieces and responding positively when going behind would again become evident.
This loss was avoidable - and not just by picking a different team. And for avoidable, also read annoying, irritating and self-inflicted, but inevitable.... given where we are currently and what the sole aim of this season is.
Alan Shearer may have led a chorus of disapproval but we were tossing this competition off in our Premier League days, so to be relegated and follow convention is hardly a shock: given that we did our best to get out in the second half at Birmingham, we're surprised that anyone is surprised.
Just Isaac Hayden and Ayoze Perez were retained from the side that beat Rotherham a week earlier, Rafa Benitez making six changes from the side who overcame Birmingham at the second attempt.
Having gashed his leg in the Third Round tie at St. Andrews, Aleksandar Mitrovic returned to lead the attack and contrived to waste three opportunities from inside the box before half time.
With Yasin Ben El-Mhanni also forcing Simon Eastwood into a decent block and his opposite number Matz Sels only tested once, the opening 45 minutes gave some cause for optimism that we'd be in the draw. Had we been interested in building on that, then a sub or two then could have helped.
Sadly though, Michael Appleton's charges unsurprisingly had other ideas and raced forward from the restart, forcing a corner that was eventually bundled home from close in by Kane Hemmings.
The Magpies responded positively and won a series of corners before Mitrovic forced his way into the area on 66 minutes and went over after being persistently manhandled by Phil Edwards.
Referee David Coote awarded a penalty that the Serbian took - after conferring
with Achraf Lazaar - only to place it too close to Eastwood and see the
'keeper making a successful diving block.
Two further goals followed; both stemming from corner kicks and both driving more malcontented away fans towards the exits. A small number meanwhile remained until the bitter end, with some fighting amongst themselves and verbally abusing visiting players after full time. They had every right to do so, but reserved their wrath for those on the field. Others pointed the finger at Rafa.
Ritchie escaped any wrath but far too may of the rest had shown absolutely no appetite, desire or fight for the cause. Once again Hayden failed to fill Jonjo Shelvey's boots adequately in the centre, both he and Perez pirouetted in attempts to win fouls rather than actually attack with purpose.
Gamez and Lazaar were clearly unaware of how to approach a game like this, while both Good and Haidara were unsurprisingly well off match fitness. Playing the second senior games of their entire careers meanwhile, Barlaser and El-Mhanni did their best but looked totally out of their depth.
Opinion is divided as to whether there was a political element to the team selection, but what is apparent is the lack of depth and quality beyond a matchday core of 18 players. Given that we've now given pitch time to 33 players in all competitions (not including Elliot or Krul) this season, that's one hell of a lot of excess baggage.
A completely different line-up should take to the field against QPR on Wednesday; none of those given starts today justifying their inclusion. For Sels it may yet be his last act of the season, while our Serbian liability may just have brought down his own curtain.
Mitrovic was little short of a disgrace. Looking overweight and slow as he returned from a three week layoff, his lack of brainpower quickly shone through when attempting to elbow an opponent (missed by the officials) and reacting to abuse from home fans with some sarcastic applause.
Sulking around like a petulant child, the penalty miss and blatant lack of effort afterwards merely highlighting his huffiness. The opposite of whole-hearted and utterly undeserving of any mention in the same breath as previous Newcastle players who had a physical reputation.
The annoying thing was that when he occasionally applied himself, the home side looked absolutely scared stiff of him. One episode in the first half when he held off a trio of defenders reminiscent of former Magpie (and Oxford) battering ram, Billy Whitehurst.
Maybe it's adding another club to a list that includes Chester, Exeter, Stevenage and Brighton that meant we were ambivalent about this defeat, although anyone present without those campaign medals is perfectly entitled to vent their spleen.
Our first loss at Oxford was in the League Cup back in 1983/84, when as is the case currently we were two leagues down and the hosts were one below that. Fast forward a few months though and annoyance at that was replaced by sheer jubilation at having achieved a return to the top flight.
We remain a relegated team, looking to recapture some of our (very) faded glory. If advancing via a replay before being howked by a Premier League team in the next round while league fixtures pile up around us was our fate, get out now and forget about it.
The chances of us reaching Wembley in the FA Cup were so remote as to be unthinkable; avoiding a trip there in the playoffs remains our main objective. Stuff romance; anyone looking for that should have gone to see La La Land at the adjacent cinema.