Ahhhh, the FA Cup third round. You can smell it. Smells a bit like Thursday night 50p pints in Legends mixed with, boiled burgers and a little bit of vomit. Excitement and fear in equal measure – a heady aroma!
Before the match I lay stewing in bed for a rare lie in with a mild hangover and pondered life, art, death, NUFC, Rafa and the FA Cup. Well maybe scratch the first three subjects out!
Before I’m labelled a lazy so and so, that morning’s tardiness was a direct result of a massive alcohol induced Top of Pops 1984 overdose (forced on me by her indoors) followed by an unplanned late night freak out session trying to fix an overactive boiler (sadly not a euphemism) by torchlight, with one whisky eye sliding down my face. Such is my rock and roll existence.
I’ve got a bit of a love hate thing going on with the FA Cup. Simply, I used to love, love LOVE it. Christ on a bike in days of yore, it was one of THE things to look forward to in the calendar.
Don’t hate it now, but after the sorry excuses over the last decade under the ownership of the Fat Controller, it’s certainly lost a bit of sparkle. The perennial marking on the calendar for another metaphorical kick in the nuts, grates after a while. That excitement also tempered by the fear of relegation and the retold tale of ‘look at Wigan’. Best warn the big boys about the FA Cup relegation clause.
Cross your fingers and hang garlic around your neck to ward off that nasty relegation beast! It isn’t going down that’s the fear, it’s losing the spends and who we are losing the spends under – seeing as the current budget is seemingly written in magical, invisible ink on the reverse of Charnley’s peekaboo knickers and bra set, such is the mystery that surrounds it.
Been asked many times if I’d take the FA Cup and be relegated or be guaranteed to stay up and win nowt. Well seeing as in my lifetime we have won sweet Fanny Adams, I’d usually say without hesitation that I’d take a trip to Wembley and win the FA Cup. But under Ashley and at the crossroads we are at, I’d have to think more about the answer to that question.
Without doubt, I’ve had my best ever away days on the hoy, bar none; and Luton town will have been having sleepless nights whilst gathering an army of nearly 7,500 folk, all of who would be dreaming of a giant killing and taking over the Toon.
These days we are not quite the giant are we? Sleeping giant is usually the phrase coined, but if this giant had slept for this long, he’d likely have been buried a long time ago by a council JCB crew after a few prods with a stick couldn’t rouse it. Maybe a cup run and just maybe an Amanda Staveley takeover will give this catatonic club the kiss of life. Here’s hoping..but say it quietly.
So Aye, great times have been had but equally after some trips I could have happily went kite flying in our local pylon field in a thunderstorm with a metal hat on. Toss a coin.
Spurs away in the Semi Final at Old Trafford, best ever atmosphere, Shearer screamer, winning, Jimmy Nail getting out his car and cheering my mate Willis halfway up a lamp-post somewhere in the Salford area. Highlights.
Birmingham City away, sticking my finger in a bagpipe player’s pipe just before the big finish (fortunately not a euphemism) and being chased by said piper down the street with snots all over his face from a nasal explosion. Highlight.
Swindon overnighter prior to Cardiff and the Millenium stadium to play Man Utd. Drinking ourselves inside out for twenty four hours until the pink-eyed bleary realisation our coach was actually waiting outside and then dying a thousand deaths in self-induced pain topped with the icing of getting humped and Nicky Butt sticking the Vs to his own fans. Taking 3 years to travel home on the coach. Lowlight.
Wembley way three years on the bounce! Outsinging all other fans, Robert Lee scoring against Chelsea (crying like a baby at said goal) – insanity level highlights!
Losing all effing three and baking like a potato at the front of the stand in the run down crumbling dump that was Old Wembley – epic lowlights!
Anyway, back to the programme as too many to mention. I think there is a programme.
Not the one on the Beeb showing semi pros Pete the Postman or Tommy the Train Driver going through their paces this morning, no that’s gone from Third Round build up in my house.
The kids simply make a mathematical equation from the Football Holy bible. The freshly delivered by Santa Claus FIFA 18. Quite simply NUFC could not lose. If only I’d found this magic formula nearly forty years ago!
Anyway, with tickets procured last week for the back of the Gallowgate, we parked up (sober family matchday – yay!) and trundled down Pitt street dodging the odd old fashioned and lesser spotted dog turds. Successfully in some cases, unsuccessfully in others.
There weren’t as many buses parked on Barrack Road as I’ve seen from other travellers, but the further I got, the more obvious it was that they were streaming in from everywhere.
Gaudy orange shirts, laughing and back slapping the order of the day. Bless.
Such witticisms abound as ‘Premier League – you’re having a laugh’.
To the game and the atmosphere was weird. I know Cup games can do that with folk moving around and kids etc, but it was really odd.
This added to my sense of doom in what I thought was a lose-lose game all ends up.
The Luton mob gave it some big licks at the very beginning, not that you can see them from where we were sat, but that ebbed away quickly.
I’ve tried and failed to predict a Rafa XI unsuccessfully now for donkeys. Today was no different. The King of curve balls launched another by picking a full strength team barring young Woodman. Nice one.
The game began with half an hour world record attempt by Clark and Lascelles for one-two return balls across the line. It was borderline hypnotic and save for a couple of misplaced passes being chased down, there was nowt really doing at our end, or sadly the other, which added to this muted atmosphere.
When not passing across the line, the centre backs were parting and Shelvey or Merino was dropping right back, almost as a centre half, to take the ball. Although keeping the ball well and Clark even doing what looked like a Maradona turn on the ball at one point, was making it easy for Luton to defend in numbers.
Luton tried their luck a couple of times which seemed to wake us up into actually trying to go forward and lo and behold 3 goals in nine minutes blew them away. Who’d have thought it?
For all their hard work the away team keeper moved with the grace of a day glow bin bag filled with potatoes and Perez gobbled up the spills – twice.
His second goal had me looking around to see if it had been ruled out, so weirdly quiet was the celebration.
Jonjo stroked in an excellent sweeping team goal to end the game before half time. Erm, not quite.
Kids were bouncing as it’s been a while since they saw a few goals (for us) and it seemed like we would get a lorry load more towards the Gallowgate. My sense of doom eroded. Surely? Erm not quite again.
With Big Jamaal leaving the field and replaced by Hayden, the back line usually like a tight string held by the Captain went haywire and started opening up gaps for simple straight through balls, opening us up like the pearly gates of heaven to St Peter.
Seemed like I’d just sat down again when that happened, leaving young Woodman to panic and come flying out to try and rectify, only to be duly rounded and the ball slotted into an empty net.
Going forward we had a gazillion chances. Never seen so many of late and the gulf was obvious when we did string it together. Problem was the last pass, bad touch, getting free but ballooning over and general impotence, meant that the wobbles at the back kept them in it.
Cue another through ball and the ball slammed in again. This flagged offside (right or wrong?) and the lad running on a comedic lap of honour to celebrate. Might have raised the biggest cheer of the day with his double face palm on the grim realisation! Ha ha.
The kids were jumping up and down on their seats, half in edginess, half to stop themselves from hypothermia and eventually freezing to death. Bloody hell, I was jumping up and down.
A flurry of yellows and daft free kicks followed on the edge of our box and one of Rob Lee’s young’uns wobbled the crossbar! Flipping Nora man, put them to bed!
Murphy spanked one just wide, Richie had a last couple of efforts and that was it. Excellent stuff and fourth round here we come. If my sinuses were not frozen solid I may have got a massive nosebleed reaching this juncture again.
No doubt it’ll be Manchester City away next, but who knows?
The trundle back to the motor past the ‘jublilant’ away fans was interesting. They are ‘top of the league’, Newcastle are going down and they are going up. Comedy legends all. My eldest confirming to them even if we did go down and they go up, we still wouldn’t meet.
Well unlike the ‘Hatters’ – the Magpies are in the ‘Hat’ for the 4th Round. Your ancestors might have fashioned that hat, but you are not in it! Tatty bye boys and girls.
Doom avoided and a well deserved Indian takeaway awaited.
Happy FA Cup third round day.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 3 Luton 1
Goals – Newcastle Perez 30, 36 Shelvey 39
Goals – Luton Hylton 49
Possession was Luton 51% Newcastle 49%
Total shots were Luton 9 Newcastle 25
Shots on target were Luton 2 Newcastle 7
Corners were Luton 7 Newcastle 7
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Woodman, Manquillo, Lascelles (Hayden 31), Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Merino (Saivet 80), Shelvey (Diame 71), Murphy, Perez, Gayle
Darlow, Joselu, Haidara, Aarons
Crowd: 47,069 (Approx 7,500 Luton)
(To read instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the FA Cup win go HERE)
(Go HERE to watch the goals and highlights from Newcastle 3 Luton 1)
(Rafa Benitez analysis of win and update on Jamaal Lascelles injury situation HERE)
(Luton boss Nathan Jones gives his perspective on the match HERE)
(Rafa sets new FA Cup attendance record under Mike Ashley – Read it HERE)
You can follow the author on Twitter @JamieSwan1