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Bigger fish to fry? You bet

1 year ago
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Well that’s that for another year.

Being dumped out of the FA Cup early doors is nothing new to Newcastle United fans but Saturday night I can take some solace in the fact that I always knew that there would be “that game” that was a bridge too far.

So it proved at Hillsborough and whilst I was still disappointed, my reaction at full time was strangely indifferent.

Having extracted myself from work early and got myself to the pub at 5pm, on seeing the starting line-up I wasn’t overly worried. Pint confidently consumed. Was I surprised that Alexandar Isak started? Yes. Was I concerned at the amount of changes? Yes. But still confident that we would win the tie.

Nobody connected with Newcastle United wanted a replay that’s for sure but if that’s what it took then I was still certain we would be in the hat for the fourth round.

So what went wrong?

The answer was almost immediately apparent from kick-off. If Eddie Howe selected players to give them game time and/or see what they can offer, then he was badly let down by certain players and in particular his defence from the get go. There was too much disruption to the team and it showed. If that’s perceived as a criticism of Howe then fine, it is. It’ll be a first from me.

The lack of both Dan Burn and Kieran Trippier was there for all to see. Javier Manquillo did ok but Jamal Lewis was pulled all over the place in the first 15 minutes and I can’t have been the only one that was surprised that it took so long for Sheffield Wednesday to make it pay. Forget subbing Isak at half time, it should have been the former Norwich man who simply isn’t up to scratch. He wasn’t alone in the collective misfire but having a stinker is one thing, having it against League One opposition? The writing should be on the wall.

The broader picture? Put simply, this side can’t make four changes in defence and expect to get a result. That it was against said League One opposition only makes it more disappointing. Yet still we got to half time with our standard clean sheet. No drama, no fuss. We’ll do them in the second half, despite our less than convincing first half display. A further pint polished off.

It was apparent that Isak wasn’t going to come back out for the second half and this STILL didn’t concern me. Personally (and with wonderful hindsight) I would have had Chris Wood starting and brought Isak on for his first game back after injury. Call it personal preference if you will when bringing an injured player back but that’s just me. I still feel it was an error.

As an aside, early in the second half someone leaned in and said “No VAR tonight” which passed me by but didn’t deter my confidence whatsoever. However, that would eventually prove pivotal on the opening goal. I can’t believe that different sides in the same competition can have different parameters and methods of officiating a game. Sheffield’s first goal shouldn’t have stood and that is crucial in any game of football regardless of competition and level of teams involved. 0-1 down, plenty time left and another pint consumed.

On reflection, you could say that we lacked purpose until Trippier and Bruno came on but that’s not entirely true. The stats show that we deserved to win the game, that’s for certain, and there’s plenty truth in the fact that between Isak and Wood they fluffed their lines. Wood seems to be the whipping boy and will get stick while Isak will avoid it. I stand somewhere in the middle. Wood does a job and that is NOT necessarily to score goals. Strange for a striker but his critics will just have to get their head round it and live with it for the time being.

Interestingly, would it have been an option to start BOTH Wood and Isak? I digress.

0-2 down was soon a reality (another pint consumed) and that’s when I realised the game was up. At that stage bringing on the cavalry didn’t alter my mood, positive or negative. Yes, you don’t give up the ghost, but that was my attitude. It was a game that I just couldn’t get into for some reason.

A brief skirmish of football broke out with the introduction of Trippier, Bruno and Miguel Almiron but the damage had been done. The pressure didn’t carve out a second goal but that’s due to Sheffield Wednesday playing well and being resolute. Fair play to them and I hope they do well in the next round. No more pints were deemed necessary due to general indifference (and work in the morning). Bigger fish to fry? You bet.

There were always going to be setbacks along the way and last night was one. I can’t be the only one that is happy that it was in a game that wasn’t part of a cup run deeper into a competition, isn’t in the Premier League, and can be written off as a learning cure for Eddie Howe on who is up to it and who isn’t.

Onto Tuesday night then and a chance to right a few wrongs. We know the side that started last night will NOT be the same as the one that takes to the field against Leicester City at St James’. Callum Wilson will be fine, Almiron, Bruno, Trippier, Schar, Pope, Burn will all be restored to the starting line up and that is crucial.

The project continues and I’ll be there on Tuesday night (obviously with a few pints consumed) totally confident that we will be in the semi-final come 10pm.

Attitude and application will be different in that game and rightly so. The malaise in the team selection yesterday was reflected with the performance on the pitch. Nobody seemed to want that game last night.

That must be rectified and I’m confident it will be on Tuesday night, with a few pints knocked back to toast Newcastle United into a cup semi final…

Stats from BBC Sport:

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Newcastle 1 – Saturday 7 January 6pm

Goals:

Newcastle United:

Bruno 69

Sheffield Wednesday:

Windass 52, 65

Possession was Sheff Wed 25% Newcastle 75%

Total shots were Sheff Wed 9 Newcastle 22

Shots on target were Sheff Wed 4 Newcastle 7

Corners were Sheff Wed 1 Newcastle 11

Referee: Michael Salisbury

Attendance: 25,884 (4,500 Newcastle)

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Manquillo, Lascelles, Botman, Lewis (Trippier 69), Anderson (Willock 60), Longstaff (Bruno 60), Joelinton, Murphy (Almiron 60), Ritchie, Isak (Wood 45)

Unused Subs:

Darlow, Dummett, Fraser, Burn,

(Eddie Howe reacts to second Newcastle United defeat in 8 months – Perspective – Read HERE)

(3 Positives and 3 Negatives to take from Sheffield Wednesday 2 Newcastle 1 – Read HERE)

(Eddie Howe proved right with previous squad comments by what he saw at Hillsborough – Read HERE)

(Sheffield Wednesday 2 Newcastle 1 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)

(Darren Moore reflects – Winning against Newcastle United one of proudest career moments – Read HERE)

(Sheffield Wednesday 2 Newcastle 1 – The instant NUFC fan / writer reaction – Read HERE)

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