A big game at St. James’ Park: FA Cup 4th round, sell out crowd on a grey January afternoon. All the ingredients were there to make a great day watching the football, but then it is Newcastle United we’re talking about here.
Jackie Milburn was quoted in saying “tradition dies hard in football, that’s why everyone always expects Newcastle United to do well in the FA Cup” and all the prematch press supporter this view. The manager saying we’d give it a right good go, and this was evident in the team selection.
A bumper crowd bought into this new found desire to do well in the competition with folk snapping up the well priced tickets in all areas of the ground, With Oxford similarly packing out the away end this had the makings of a great cup tie.
Like many others I had my young son with me, we walked through the city centre and plenty of black and white shirts & scarves to be seen but I wasn’t sensing a big match atmosphere before the game.
The team sheet was released without any particular notice as all the prematch chat was about some of the great times had at FA Cup semifinals at Old Trafford, we’d pretty much had our hotels booked in London for April and May such was the confidence/expectation going into this one. Sean Longstaff’s name did pop out for me though I hoped he’d take this opportunity to rediscover some form against a side that like to play football he might get that bit of freedom to make his mark and influence the game.
The match started with both teams sort of feeling each other out, Oxford got shot across the bows in early as Newcastle tried to make progress down the wings. A halt to that progress came in the first 10 mins when Joelinton clashed heads with the Oxford number 6 Alex Gorrin. Both were OK to continue but Joelinton would visit the touch line a number of occasions throughout the game for treatment on his head injury. Unfortunately our bench was light on striking options.
Allan Saint-Maximin tried his best to get going in the first half, maybe guilty of trying too hard as he often took the option to step over rather than pass to a teammate.
From my view at the match we had a decent shout for a penalty when Joelinton went down in the Leazes End box, VAR ruling no foul. Jamal Lascelles should have done better with his headed effort from close range too.
Half time came, the early goals I’d hoped for never came and it has to said credit to Oxford there wasn’t much between the sides, but we knew before the game what they were about, our passing letting us down on more than one occasion.
The second half got underway, new signing Nabil Bentaleb had a crack at goal from outside the box. He’d had done OK so far in the game, he was keen to receive the ball in tight situations playing some one touch stuff which may be useful in the coming months.
We pushed a bit more for the elusive goal in the second half, opportunities for Lascelles, Joelinton had two chalked off for clear offsides, Almiron tried to break us up the pitch but was cynically taken out a couple of times. That all sounds reasonable but Oxford changed tact by sitting absorbing our attacks and started breaking on us with some really enterprising play. One shot from Marcus Browne looking in all day from my viewpoint, clipping the outer stanchion of the Leazes End goal.
Full time, nowts each a few boos from the home crowd and all those bairns brought to watch Newcastle United play got to sample the regular disappointment associated with following this daft club of ours, gawd that seemed grim! The away fans took great delight in the result, they will no doubt fancy knocking us out of the competition at their place (we lost 3-0 down there in the same round in 2017).
Another opportunity missed, I really hope we manage to get through the replay otherwise we’re left with the perennial push to 40 points.
But to end on a positive note we’re in the hat for the 5th round for the first time in 14 seasons… that’s a positive right?
PAUL LYON @lyon1892