In this climate of mistrust and misery, it was great to see the FA Cup, given the salvation it regularly brings to all at Newcastle United. To be fair though, people need to pull their heads out of their arses big time, given the amount of shade I’ve seen thrown at the impressive 36k attendance.
Disregarding the fact (on a night that I, Daniel Blake was on the TV) that the £10 entry price may have afforded an opportunity to people who aren’t so well off to get to a game, a cursory glance of the demographic would tell you the same story it does whenever we’ve been unlucky enough to have the third round inflicted on our home crowd – lots of little children, brought along by parents at the tail end of their school holidays.
Some for the first time, some as the result of an eagerly awaited Christmas gift. All wide-eyed and untarnished by cynicism, accompanied by parents who just want to pass on their birthright to the next generation, the same way that someone took the time to do with every person who cares about their club.
Some groups of slightly older kids, relinquishing the Fortnite controller to head to the game with their pals.
Shame on you if you are so blinded by Ashley rage you think these little chaps and ladies should be denied the opportunity by politics beyond their realm of understanding.
Having said that, I’m glad I didn’t have any of my kids with me as this game was more likely to turn the wee ones off the idea of supporting Newcastle. Eight changes from the Man Utd game and absolutely nobody staked a claim to step up from the fringes.
The first half seemed an infinite meander of dull to and fro, with the usual scarcity of action. Ritchie was captain for the day, one of few first team regulars starting, but you’d think he was the one playing for a place as he put his usual shift in, bringing a fine save from Raya in the Blackburn goal. This then fell kindly to Joselu, whose shoddy half attempt was so dithering and unconvincing it gave Raya a chance he should never have had.
Joselu had tumbled earlier with some serious looking ankle problem. It looked like six months, the way he writhed and slapped the ground, but he eventually just got up, seemingly deciding he’d be ok if he played at 30% for the rest of the match.
Another one who failed to grasp his chance was Jacob Murphy, who did at least break his anonymity to risk a shot on goal from a tight angle, Raya holding on when a bit more power could have seen it bounce off him for a tap in. Joselu would have missed the tap in like, but it’s nice to try.
Ironically, the whole claret of a replay could have been avoided with slightly better timing. Ten minutes into the second half Bradley Dack rose to power a header past Woodman and lead everyone to assume this was Rovers into the fourth round. However, United were about to improve slightly due to the introduction of Jonjo Shelvey for the ineffective Hayden, United still well below par but stepping up to a level that would have won the tie had It been goalless when Shelvey entered the fray.
Shortly after, a United corner brought more goalmouth action than the first hour had seen as Shelvey’s header was well saved and follow ups from Lejeune then Joselu were kept out by Danny Graham and the goalie, the resultant corner being delayed while the ref checked with VAR for a handball that looked likely. Course we weren’t getting a penalty.
Blackburn weren’t looking too adventurous now, seemingly looking to hit us on the break and physically attack Woodman under their long bloopers into the box. Manquillo cleared off the line to keep faint hopes alive.
Shelvey then showed signs of the form we desperately need, sending through a beautifully timed ball to set Joselu in on goal. Unfortunately, Joselu approached this perfectly placed pass like a drunk man in flippers trying to control a live chicken. His awful first touch ended the attack.
However, we were soon to find out what we all knew all along. VAR would save us from the regular robbings, corruptions and cheatery that has plagued many years of inaccurate league finishes, bent cup exits and fixed relegations. Perez had just came on when his run was abruptly halted by a blatant foul in the box. The ref was probably after giving a goal kick or whatever, when VAR kicked in to dispense justice. The delay for the confirmation might get to some penalty takers, but Ritchie kept his cool and buried it.
By putting his head down and running at the defence, Perez had made something happen. This suggested that if Murphy, Kenedy or Joselu had been inclined to have a go at a defence residing in the lower third of the Championship, this whole day might have been a bit more fun, the kids in attendance might actually ask to come back, and we wouldn’t have the unpalatable proposition looming of a replay at Ewood, some three or four days before the crucial game against Cardiff at SJP, realistically the only one of the next four Premier League matches we have any chance of winning.
Maybe it’s indicative of the most pivotal month of an increasingly upsetting season that we failed to make any decisive progress on the day. Worryingly, there were few positives to suggest that there is back up to first XI shortcomings in light of the increasing certainty that they ain’t coming from the transfer market.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Blackburn 1
Newcastle – Ritchie 84 (Pen)
Blackburn – Dack 56
Possession was Blackburn 46% Newcastle 54%
Total shots were Blackburn 7 Newcastle 19
Shots on target were Blackburn 3 Newcastle 9
Corners were Blackburn 8 Newcastle 7
Referee: Kevin Friend
Woodman, Manquillo , Schar, Lejeune, Sterry, Ritchie, Longstaff (Perez 80), Hayden (Shelvey 57), Murphy (Atsu 75), Kenedy, Joselu
Harker, Clark, Yedlin, Rondon
Crowd: 36,440 (3,000 Blackburn)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction HERE)
(Rafa Benitez “A replay is bad news” – Read HERE)
(Match ratings and comments on all NUFC players v Blackburn – Read HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf