We never do things the easy way do we!
2-0 up with 10 minutes to go and cruising, yet two late goals from Oxford meant it took an extra-time screamer from Allan Saint-Maximin to eventually send us through.
We were minutes away from penalties, but this moment of pure magic from the explosive Frenchman sealed our place in the last 16 of the FA Cup.
West Brom away now await, with this being the first time we’ve made it into the 5th round in 14 years!
It was a sloppy start, with plenty loose touches and stray passes, but it was immediately clear we that we were prepared to get more bodies forward and were going to enjoy FAR more of the ball than we’re used to.
We’re used to having 35% of the ball in the League, but enjoyed almost 60% of the play in the first half – and we made the most of our dominance 15 minutes in.
Joelinton made a good darting run to get on the end of an Almiron cross, held the ball up well and laid the ball back to Sean Longstaff, who bided his time, worked the space well and fired into the roof of the next from the edge of the box. 1-0, the perfect start and a big confidence boost for a player who’s been struggling badly in recent weeks.
15 minutes later it was two – and another goal that came via some good work between Sean Longstaff and Joelinton.
This time it started with some great defensive work from Almiron. He then released Sean Longstaff who played a perfectly weighted ball in behind to Joelinton.
The Brazilian had a lot to do, but showed good movement, a turn of pace and decent strength to hold off his man, before getting the ball under control and slotting past the Oxford goalkeeper calmly.
A clinical finish and a HUGE confidence boost for the 23-year-old, especially when it was one of those goals where he had a LOT of time to think about it while everyone on Tyneside and in the away end held their breath.
Sadly he was forced off moments later after failing to shrug off a painful injury to his hip/side, but it was brilliant to see him bag a goal and an assist during his 37 minutes on the field – moments both Alan Shearer and the travelling Toon Army enjoyed!
We didn’t create a great deal of chances and did survive a few scares in the first half – with Darlow making a great stop and Lascelles clearing off the line – but it was a professional opening 45.
The second half was steady yet a bit passive from our perspective, with us preferring to see the game out than kill it with a third. We looked like we were coasting to a 0-2 win, but our failure to finish the game off cost us dearly.
A cheap free kick given away by Ritchie gave them a chance to make it interesting with 10 minutes left, and Kelly did just that.
Suddenly, we were on the ropes and you feared the worst. Panic set in, Oxford won a late free-kick deep into stoppage time – sending their keeper up in the process – and you know what follows next.
Holland scored a peach and sent the Kassam wild, meaning we’d thrown away a 0-2 lead in the space of 10 minutes and were suddenly needing to get the better of a buoyant Oxford in extra time if we were to progress.
Extra time began and they were immediately on the front foot, and were a goal-mouth scramble away from scoring less than a minute into the opening 15. We were all over the shop and the writing was on the wall if we didn’t sort ourselves out, and quickly.
Saint-Maximin looked our only hope at this point, with our midfield looking leggy and Yedlin showing an appalling lack of composure whenever he did break into the final third with the ball.
15 over, 15 to go and still 2-2.
We started the final period well – and needed to if we were to avoid a potentially unbearable penalty shoot out. Atsu cut in, went past a few and saw a deflected effort drift just wide, while the resultant corner also led to another goal, with Matty Longstaff curling just over after Ritchie’s ball in fell to him on the edge of the box.
The game was opening up and Oxford suddenly looked out on their feet. This was our chance to capitalise and strike the decisive blow before spot kicks.
Then, with minutes left before penalties, Allan Saint-Maximin did this:
A moment of sheer brilliance from our explosive Frenchman, sending us into the FA Cup 5th round and the travelling Toon Army wild as a result.
A rollercoaster ride that ended in some style!