After five games on the sidelines, Jonjo Shelvey had two very different experiences in his comeback matches.
Newcastle only won two of the five in his absence but the playmaker helped deliver a pair of wins but in very different circumstances.
A poor Birmingham second string gave the United playmaker the freedom of St James Park and it was almost cruel to watch.
By defending deep and standing off him, Jonjo Shelvey was allowed to ping balls all over the pitch and created all three goals to send Newcastle into the fourth round. His passing is so good that if given time, it is a bit like watching a computer game as he can move the ball from one part of the pitch to any other, with a minimum of fuss.
Against Rotherham though, they used the most extreme tactic seen so far this season in an attempt to curb Jonjo Shelvey and frustrate him.
Will Vaulks was like Shelvey’s devoted canine companion, no matter what else was happening on the pitch at the time, he tried to be within touching distance of the NUFC midfielder.
Vaulks admits that it was one of the strangest games he had ever played because even when play was switched to the other end of the pitch, he wasn’t allowed to join in and instead simply had to try and stay in touch with Shelvey.
The Rotherham midfielder thinks the plan was very close to working to perfection but was undone when he couldn’t get within 10 yards of Shelvey as he hit a precision long ball from a free-kick, picking out the onrushing Yedlin who supplied the assist for Murphy’s eventual finish.
The match was over from that point but the game will always live on in Will Vaulks’ memory, not least because as a childhood Newcastle fan he got to play finally at St James Park and in front of a magnificent full house of over 52,000 – remarkable.
We wait with interest though to see what Jonjo Shelvey will do if a better team employs the same tactics to try and thwart Newcastle’s game plan (give the ball to Shelvey!!).
Will Vaulks speaking to Radio Sheffield:
“It was a bizarre game for me because I have never played that man marking role before.
“When the ball is going to one end of the pitch and you are at the other end chasing someone around, it’s a little strange.
“I did quite enjoy it though and I thought (Rotherham boss) Warney put quite a lot of faith in me to do that job because he (Jonjo Shelvey) is a fantastic footballer.
“It worked really well until the free-kick, which unfortunately I couldn’t get closer than ten yards to, to stop him playing a long ball and then their class showed with a good touch (from Yedlin) and a good (Murphy) finish.
“I think he (Shelvey) did get frustrated though, he was running into stupid areas because I was running with him – but then he still had enough credibility to keep his head and play a great pass.
“It was frustrating because we had been doing so well, then they got a little bit lucky with the second goal (keeper spills for Ritchie) and you are two down at St James Park and so tough to come back from that.
“A great experience for me though because I have been a Newcastle fan since my childhood.”