A tale of two halves but a very familiar FA Cup story for us Newcastle fans, with us allowing Rochdale to force a replay after failing to turn up in the second 45.
Early dominance, 74% possession, some good football and a brilliant Miguel Almiron goal had us in cruise control early on, but our second half display was non existent and shambolic at times.
Rochdale took full advantage and have not only forced a replay at St James’ Park but will be wondering how they didn’t win it late on.
Bruce was forced into several changes with a dozen senior players ruled out. We saw Krafth and Hayden either side of Fernandez in a three-man defence, Atsu and Yedlin in wide areas as attacking wing-backs, a midfield duo of Sean and Matty Longstaff and Miguel Almiron in the no.10 role just behind Joelinton and Muto, with U-23 trio Thomas Allan, Lewis Cass and Elias Sorensen on the bench.
We started very positively and controlled the game from the outset. We’ve been guilty of not taking the cup seriously in recent years, but the most heartening thing about our first 45 was the committed, focused and professional performance we put in
OK, it’s Rochdale – a struggling League One side we should look MUCH better than – but we moved the ball quickly and precisely, were first to every loose ball and created chances. The one negative was our inability to finish some of the chances Atsu and Yedlin created (who ran riot in wide areas), with Joelinton and Muto guilty of missing a few they should’ve put away.
One player who was not wasteful in front of goal was Miguel Almiron, however.
After some brilliant work from Atsu, his touch and powerful finish was the highlight of a dominant first half:
Again, it’s Rochdale, but Atsu was outstanding. So good in fact that the home side decided to take off their right-back just 28 minutes in, with him beating Magloire for fun and regularly delivering good balls into the box when he did.
Joelinton was..well, very Joelinton – and little did we know he was going to get MUCH worse in the second half. A few nice bursts forward with the ball, but he snatched at too many of his chances. He enjoyed one nice turn, touch and hit which was well saved:
We lacked that killer touch to finish off smart moves in the first half, but it felt like we were well on our way to a rare comfortable win in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. How wrong was I.
The turning point was not only Aaron Wilbraham’s introduction – a physical player who we struggled to deal with – but mainly the loss of Miguel Almiron; a player who gave us that energy, creativity and spark between midfield and attack.
Muto – who was buzzing about alongside Joelinton up top – was forced off through injury. He struggled in parts, but his movement and running in behind pushed Rochdale back, making Bruce’s decision to bring on Ki in his place a baffling and costly mistake. We were then overcrowded in midfield but light on options in attack. It not only invited Rochdale onto us but seemed like a safe move to protect what we had – and it backfired.
Dubravka made a few smart saves to keep us ahead, but it wasn’t long before Rochdale drew level, with a 40-year-old Aaron Wilbraham showing a £40m Joelinton how to finish with 10 minutes remaining:
The goal came on the back of a loose Joelinton pass which pretty much sums up his afternoon. His lack of confidence, his age (23) and the pressure on him (number 9 shirt and £40m price tag) makes me want to defend him, but he needs to stop throwing his arms up in the air and start showing much more desire in and around the box. And that doesn’t even factor in the basic hold up play and finishing he’s failing to execute.
I hate when new signings are written off, but he’s making it difficult now.
Bruce’s subs didn’t help (they were forced yet contributed to our downfall), but the way our heads drops, the mistakes, the lack of intensity and defensive fragility against an ageing League One striker. It was unacceptable given how dominant we were in the first 45. We never recovered and were lucky to get a replay in the end.
At half-time this looked like it could be a positive day and confidence building win for Steve Bruce and this out of form Newcastle side, but missed chances, poor subs and a second half collapse has cost us.
Onto Wolves next weekend and the upcoming replay at St James’ Park before our home game with Chelsea on January 18th!