Our record in the FA Cup has been so bad recently that a win today would be the first time we’ve made the Fourth Round in consecutive season in the Ashley era. Coincidence? Think not. We’ve rarely had a squad capable of competing on several squads since the NUFC billionaire has been at the helm and the times we have, we’ve shown a criminal lack of care for the competition.
Today’s home time with Luton gives us a huge chance to put that right and progress, however they can’t be taken lightly. They are top of League two and sit 11 points clear of the promotion place – so Nathan Jones’ side look set to be playing in the third tier of English football next season.
They’ll be up for it, but you’d like to think we will be too. A decent crowd is expected, but so is rotation from Rafa, with him likely to hand a few youngsters or fringe players a rare chance to impress on the St James’ Park stage.
Here’s seven players who may just feature in today’s 3pm kick off in the FA Cup:
The England U-21 international should’ve probably been loaned out in the summer (he’s too good to be playing U-23 football for NUFC), however his big chance may arrive today. Elliot is ruled out and Darlow could be protected for Swansea, so the 20-year old could be given his moment to impress. He’s one to watch if he does – those behind the scenes at NUFC have described him as our biggest young talent since Andy Carroll.
The Senegalese midfielder made his first start under Rafa’s reign at West Ham, scoring a superb free-kick and putting in a decent performance. Despite impressing, we’ve not seen him make a matchday squad since. He could be played for Rafa to get another good look at him, or this could be seen as an opportunity to put him in the shop window. Either way, I reckon he’ll start.
Aarons has quite a bit of unfulfilled potential in the eyes of quite a few NUFC fans, and he’s another I fully expect to start today. His last appearance came in the 1-0 defeat to Man City last month, however he might get more chance to attack and show what he can do against a League Two Luton side today. That’s the plan anyway.
You’d be excused for thinking the Frenchman no longer plays for us. Constant injuries have hampered his NUFC career and although he looks almost certain to leave this month or in the summer, he could fill in at left-back today.
The 20-year-old Gateshead born midfielder made a few appearances during our brief FA Cup run last season and get more senior minutes at St James’ Park today. He’s a ball playing central midfielder whose been impressing for the U-23’s. Unsure if he’ll start, but I expect him to be in the squad.
It’s difficult to say, but I think we could see something a little like this from the start today:
(4-2-3-1): Woodman – Manquillo, Clark, Dummett, Haidara – Murphy, Saivet, Hayden, Aarons – Diame – Gayle.
You’d think the likes of Mbemba, Mitrovic, Lejeune and Gamez might have played if fit, but with those set to miss out and Rafa suggesting he’ll play a ‘strong’ side, we might see a few more first teamer’s start than some may have anticipated.
Either way, it looks set to be an interesting day at St James’ either way, with Elliot and Ollie Lee – the sons of Newcastle legend Rob – both set to start for the visitors.
Here’s hoping we progress and put in a good performance to get back to winning ways at St James’ ahead of next weekend’s crucial league game with Swansea.
Prediction: Newcastle 3-1 Luton
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