Rafa rung the changes as there were starts for Sels, Hanley, Yedlin, Haidara, Lazaar, Tiote, Murphy and Mitrovic. Hell froze over and Rafa Benitez played 4 4 2 due to Perez’s training ground injury. We lined up with Anita on the right wing ahead of Yedlin, and Lazaar on the left ahead of Haidara in an attaching/defensive move whichever way you want to look at it. Tiote and Colback lined up together in the middle.
St Andrews wasn’t even half full as United brought 4,600 fans down to the midlands. As a result the game was played out in a funeral like atmosphere as there were so few home fans present (much like the games at Blackburn and Wigan) that they away end barely raised a noise today. Perhaps a mixture of no home support and a feeling that a cup run (and certainly a replay) was against the clubs best interests.
Anyway United started like a house on fire and forced the game from the off. Lazaar and Haidara transformed our left side and caused Birmingham trouble from the off. Lazaar won a free kick after some great work which he delivered himself. We almost scored immediately and then did so from the resultant corner. I don’t really know what happened as but there was an almighty scramble and Daryl Murphy was there to stab the ball home. Five minutes in, belting start.
I know it was only five minutes of play but the left side had looked really good. Murphy and Mitrovic seemed to be playing well together and linking well. The Birmingham defenders weren’t sure how to combat them. During the goal Mitrovic was injured, down for around 4 minutes and then stretchered off whilst being provided with oxygen. I presumed his season was over with a bad knee injury but listening to Rafa post game it appears it’s just a deep cut. So he won’t be out too long.
It was a massive shame that the whole game plan had to be torn up. It was working and we were all over Birmingham. Goufrann came on and we appeared to go to a 5-3-2 formation or a 5-4-1. Haidara tucked inside to become a third CB and Lazaar moved to LB.
United continue to dominate and the ball fell to Goufrann in the box and he dragged his shot wide. Hanley then headed over from six yards before Goufrann rounded the keeper but didn’t back himself against the angle and hesitated instead of shooting. He should have done far better and Hanley should have scored. The game should have been finished after half an hour and United safely in the next round. Also I should have been at Brentford next Monday night. Lots of things that should have happened didn’t.
After somehow still finding themselves in the game the home side dominated the ten minute period before half time and were unlucky not to go in ahead. An equaliser came after the dreadful referee allowed a feee kick (which should have gone our way) to be taken quickly ten yards from where the alleged foul took place. Jutkiewicz swept home from the cross that followed for the equaliser. Soon after Matt Sels hesitated when he looked we’ll place to get to a ball and the home side hit the bar. It was another poor afternoon for our Belgian keeper, flapping at balls under no pressure. He seems surprised when defenders pass the ball back to him and doesn’t speak to his defenders. At the end of the game he came to meet a bouncing ball and spilled the simple catch, much to the frustration of his team mates. A loan spell sounds like a good idea with Rob Elliot returning to fitness.
The second half passed without incident, the referee doing his best to ruin any kind of game of football by stopping the game endlessly. United failed to create an opening as the improvised formation started to creak. Daryl Murphy tired after a bright start and Tiote’s first start of the season saw him look incredibly rusty (shit) which was to be expected. Oh for Shelvey not to do what he did. Idiot. The Birmingham goal scorer could have won the game twice late on with two free headers but failed to test Matt Sels on either occasion.
Matt Ritchie and Hayden were introduced late on and couldn’t change the disjointed flow of the game. Laughably the one late chance United had on the counter was ruined as the referee decided to pull play back and award us a free kick. Pathetic decision. It was the result no one wanted and we’ll do this again a week Wednesday at SJP. If I was Rafa I’d have brought Gayle on for Mitrovic and Ritchie on sooner, to try and avoid the replay. The game against Brentford has now been moved to Saturday 3pm, so I can’t go. Frustrating. We need to get back to winning ways in the league. Brentford will precede four home games in a row; Birmingham, Rotherham, QPR and then Derby. A great chance to get on another good run.
Not much to be taken from today. I’m pleased Murphy got a goal and Haidara got a run out. We badly need competition for the left side as Dummet and Goufrann have done well, but shouldn’t be automatic picks as they have been. Shelvey will be back for the return game and hopefully sensible pricing will entice another decent crowd to SJP.
MoTM: Lascelles – solid throughout
Their fans – 3 – some noise in the second half but a pathetic turn out.
Our fans – 6 – good numbers but what’s the point in numbers when the game is played in silence bar the very start and very end of the game. Boo’s at the end from attention seekers. Entitled ****s.
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
The match issue of THE SPECIAL, is still available so just click here.
To get signed up for THE SPECIAL and have it e-mailed into your in-box every match-day morning, just click here
There is also the small question of 80+ pages of the best fanzine writing you can shake a stick at. true faith is Newcastle United’s most widely read and longest running fanzine and giving the alternative view since 1999.
Just click on the image below and its all yours – once again FREE of charge.