We were made to fight for it, but two poachers goal from Ayoze Perez and a well worked move finished off by Jonjo Shelvey saw us see off a battling Luton side in front of a superb 47,000 crowd at St James’ Park.
Firstly, a hat tip to all those Luton fans who made the trip today. Over 7,000 made the 250 miles trip. I’ve never seen an away support fill level 7 of St James’ like they did today. A superb effort and a decent showing by their team too.
Now to Newcastle. Rafa fielded a strong team (as promised) and despite us not really getting out of first gear in the first half, we found ourselves 3-0 up! As seen below, Perez was alive in the six yard box to prod home the first two, however our second was a lovely move, slotted home calmly by Jonjo Shelvey:
Luton pulled one back just 4 minutes into the second half and made a game of it in the end, but it was relatively plain sailing in the end, with us keeping our lead at two goals despite a poor display in the second.
A few observations. It was the first time we’ve seen Merino and Shelvey start in a while. They both look comfortable in possession, but I noticed today that they are both keen on coming deep to pick up the ball. They made be our two most talented midfielders, but unless we have more of a natural number 10 who wants to come looking for the ball off them (Perez isn’t that man) then I feel they’ll struggling to get us going from such a deep lying position. They both put in decent shifts, mind.
On the subject of Perez, his two goals today mean he’s bagged in consecutive games for the first time in a few years for NUFC. He was alive in the box for both and made a decent burst forward for the third goal, but his all round play aside form this was pretty poor all game. I really don’t see him as a natural number 10. He’s too often on the fringes of things, and the conviction and quality (or lack of it) behind most of what he does often fails to convince me. A good number 10 will probably get more touches of the football than any other player on the pitch and constantly demand the ball. Perez most definitely does neither. I don’t mean to have a dig at the bloke after a two-goal haul and 3 goals in 2 so far this year, but he needs to offer more in that role for me.
Woodman made his first start for NUFC and had a mixed time of it. He took a cross confidently in the opening exchanges, made a decent stop in the second half and looked to have a good kick on him, however he wanted a bit too much time to clear his lines on more than one occasion and was very nearly caught out. He was partly at fault for their goal, being rounded as he rushed out, but it was good to see one of our brightest talents finally get a chance. He got a good receptions as he ran out towards the Gallowgate and will have gained some valuable experience from that. Hopefully he can secure a decent loan move this month and kick on from here.
Great to see us get back to winning ways at home and give the St James’ Park crowd something to smile about after a woeful winless run at home recently. Into the 4th Round we go with the outright odds for the Toon to win the competition hovering around 50/1 if you were to place bet at 888sport.com and 66/1 at most other bookies.
Finally, Lascelles limped off and was replaced by Isaac Hayden at centre-half on the half hour mark, but the early signs are that it was just precautionary. Thank god!
A sensational 47,000 crowd, a strong team played and a much needed win at St James’ Park. Who said the romance of the FA Cup is dead? Onto Swansea we go!