A convincing win for Newcastle United in tonight’s FA Cup replay, with goals from Matty Longstaff, Miguel Almiron and Joelinton helping us to a 4-1 victory over Rochdale.
The win sends us into the 4th round of the FA Cup where a home tie with Oxford awaits, giving us a chance to make the 5th round of the competition for the first time since 2006!
Steve Bruce made SIX changes from the side that drew at Wolves over the weekend. Out came Dubravka, Fernandez, Dummett, Clark, Willems and Gayle and in came Darlow, Krafth, Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie and Atsu:
Rochdale sat in, got men behind the ball and frustrated us early on, although Miguel Almiron should have scored 10 minutes in, but saw a shot on the edge of the box flash wide after a good lay-off from Atsu.
We needed to make the most of our possession and move the ball forward quicker, and we began to do that, with Almiron coming close once again minutes later – seeing his deflected shot smash the post just moments later.
We were beginning to turn the screw and, on 17 minutes, a Eoghan O’Connell own goal made it 1-0, with the Rochdale defender diverting a brilliant Matt Ritchie cross into his own net.
Then, just three minutes later, Matty Longstaff made it 2-0 via another Matt Ritchie assist – oh how we’ve missed him!
We failed to get that crucial second goal at Spotland 10 days ago, but this was a different story and the tie felt as good as over after 20 minutes – not that we were finished scoring!
Another then arrived 25 minutes in, with Rochdale’s goalkeeper Sanchez gifting Miguel Almiron his fourth goal in 7 games. 3-0 up and we were in total control, looking like we were about to score every time we got at a Rochdale defence that was there for the taking.
The only slight frustration from the first half was Joelinton. He worked hard, but his touch sometimes let him down, and his lack of movement / ability to get into good attacking areas was summed up when he remained static on the edge of the box despite Christian Atsu swinging in an inviting cross.
If he wants to develop into a top number 9, he needs to start showing more desire and movement when good balls come into the box – although his big moment did arrive in the closing stages!
Mike Ashley was in attendance and amongst the 25,000 inside St James’ Park.
His first appearance of the season on Tyneside ahead of transfer talks with Steve Bruce, but hopefully our convincing win doesn’t give him a reason not to spend in what remains of the January window!
The second half began and Bruce made no changes at the break – which was a surprise given the tie was all but over and a few key players may have benefited from a rest ahead of Saturday’s clash with Chelsea.
We had 70% of the ball at this stage and a comfortable lead, but came out half asleep at the start of the second half – and were almost punished as Ryan and Dooley missed big chances just moments after the restart.
For a spell they were the better side and threatened to make it 3-1 as we let sloppiness creep in, but a nice moment arrived on 56 minutes, with 20-year-old local lad Tom Allan coming on for his first-team debut.
We continued to look half asleep in the second half, but the fact it remained at 3-0 meant Bruce was able to take off Miguel Almiron on the 60-minute mark. Andy Carroll replaced him, meaning we had four Academy graduates on the pitch in Carroll, the two Longstaff’s and Tom Allan.
The final substitution then came with 20 minutes remaining, seeing Jonjo Shelvey replace Matt Ritchie – who was highly influential on his return with two assists.
The second half was a non event in many respects, but the icing on the cake arrived when Joelinton scored his first competitive goal at St James’ Park to end his 20-game drought.
After some outstanding work from Allan out wide – who beat his man for pace and delivered a brilliant cross – the Brazilian fired home and ran straight over to Steve Bruce to celebrate.
A big sigh of relief for him – let’s hope this gives him the confidence boost he badly needed and allows him to kick on.
Rochdale then pulled one back in the closing stages, with Williams’ low strike from the edge of the box clipping the post and going in to deny Darlow a clean sheet and make it 4-1.
We pushed for another late on, and Andy Carroll very nearly made it five when his close-range effort crashed the crossbar, however it ended 4-1.
A comfortable win, confidence boosting goals for Joelinton and Miguel Almiron, an impressive return for Ritchie, a good run out for skipper Jamaal Lascelles and a first-team debut for U-23 star Tom Allan.
Job done – and a winnable home game with Oxford Utd awaits in round 4!