Fans of NUFC can put any hopes of League Cup silverware on ice for yet another year after bowing out at the hands of Blackburn Rovers last night.
Gael Givet struck the hammer blow right at the end of extra time as Blackburn shaded a share of seven goals on the night, although the reality is that the away can feel lucky to even have been involved in the game at that stage.
We were poor on the night and deserved to lose, although that in itself demonstrates the ability and belief that this team has in reserve. They never let their heads drop and even at two goals down with only stoppage time remaining they still managed to dig deep and take a game that looked dead and buried into extra time.
It was the hosts who started the brightest and they threatened from the off. Junior Hoilett went close before the home side took the lead inside the first five minutes after good work from Martin Olsson who cut the ball back from the left for Ruben Rochina to fire home past Tim Krul.
The visitors very nearly hit back immediately through Demba Ba who thumped a shot against the post but that was just about all the away side had to offer in attack as they struggled to get a foothold in the match.
In truth Blackburn were at risk of running away with things and we can thank Tim Krul for keeping us in the match. The Dutch stopper was on hand to deny a Chris Samba header, a Rochina shot and a couple of scrambled efforts from Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Goodwillie.
However with the tie delicately balanced it wouldn’t have taken a lot for Newcastle to get back into it. They nearly did that in the second half through Demba Ba, Sylvain Marveaux and a rather gilt edged chance from Hatem Ben Arfa who somehow managed to head over the bar from two yards out.
Newcastle were getting back into the match and had strong appeals for a penalty waved away after Demba Ba was brought down by Chris Samba. The referee waved away the protests and Newcastle switched off as a quick clearance found Ruben Rochina who sprinted clear of the defence and chased after his own poor first touch. Tim Krul came out to deal with that and cleaned everything out, ball, player, the lot which was enough to convince the ref to award a penalty in favour of the home side. Replays have subsequently shown that Krul cleared the ball first, by some margin, but the decision was made and Yakubu slotted home from the spot to make it 2-0 on the night.
That was pretty much game over in fairness as it looked to kill off any attempt on our part to get back in the game. The match was petering out and even a 25-yard goal from Danny Guthrie in injury time failed to lift the spirit amongst fans. But then the unthinkable happened.
Yohan Cabaye lined an ambitious free-kick 30-yards out and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top right hand corner of Mark Bunn’s net. An unbelievable turn around. Two goals in stoppage time is something that few of us expected but extra time it was.
Unfortunately it was Blackburn who regained the lead in the first half of extra time through Morten Gamst Pedersen’s hugely deflected free kick which left Tim Krul with no chance despite his best efforts. However you rule this Newcastle side out at your peril and they equalised once more after Yohan Cabaye was brought down on the box. To me it was a soft penalty, but so was the Blackburn one earlier and don’t forget we should have had one ourselves! Peter Lovenkrands took the spot kick and levelled the score at 3-3 at the end of the first period of extra time.
The second period of extra time was an altogether tighter affair as neither side looked willing to take a chance with the match finely poised. It really looked as though the drama of a penalty shootout was on the cards, but that was until Blackburn has the final say in the last minute of extra time thanks to Gael Givet who headed home from point blank range. From that there was no coming back.
So Blackburn are into the Quarter Finals at our expense then and we must put dreams of a Wembley final on hold for another year. Still it’s been that long that another years won’t hurt, and there is still the FA Cup to consider!
The League Cup is the one that is supposed to be winnable however which is why it’s a shame that we’re out of it. It’s supposed to be the one that the real top teams scoff at allowing the unlikely lads to get a pop at winning a pot. It’s a myth of course. Just look at the teams that are in the last eight of the competition.
It’s also the end of our 14 match unbeaten run so it will be interesting to see just how we come back from it. If the spirit shown is anything like what we saw last night then we’ll be fine. We deserved to lose last night because we were rubbish for 88 minutes of the game. We may have had 70% of the ball but we rarely threatened the Blackburn goal. However the spirit in this team should be applauded and ensured that we went down fighting in the end.
Next up, Stoke City!
Blackburn: Mark Bunn, Jason Lowe, Martin Olsson, Christopher Samba, Gael Givet, Ruben Rochina, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Radosav Petrovic, Junior Hoilett, David Goodwillie, Yakubu
Subs: Paul Robinson, Grant Hanley, Myles Anderson, Robbie Cotton, Mauro Formica, Jason Roberts, Simon Vukcevic
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, James Perch, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon; Sylvain Marveaux, Danny Guthrie, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez; Hatem Ben Arfa; Demba Ba
Subs: Rob Elliot, Peter Lovenkrands, Mehdi Abeid, Gabriel Obertan, Sammy Ameobi, Nile Ranger, Dan Gosling
Referee: Robert Madley