A debut goal for Ryan Fraser and another assist for Miguel Almiron as Newcastle beat Blackburn 1-0 in the second round of the Carabao Cup – but it was a lethargic performance and a stark contrast to Saturday’s win.
Bruce said he’d make ‘wholesale changes’ before the game and he stuck to his word, with us making TEN. There were debuts for Ryan Fraser and Mark Gillespie, but the confusion stemmed from the fact that Bruce named three right backs in the back four and Joelinton as a lone front man, despite playing him on the wing against West Ham.
(4-4-1-1): Gillespie – Yedlin, Krafth, Clark, Manquillo – Ritchie, Barlaser, S Longstaff, Fraser – Almiron – Joelinton.
SUBS: Darlow, Lascelles, Hayden, Hendrick, Murphy*, Atsu*, Saint-Maximin*.
It was the visitors who started better and dominated the ball in the opening exchanges, with 63% possession in the first half! They also had the first big chance of the game, with Lewis Holtby putting a golden chance wide after ghosting into the box unmarked.
They looked the most likely and were passing the ball about well. Then, out of the blue, Ryan Fraser made a brilliant run to get in behind the Blackburn defence and Miguel Almiron found him with a beautifully weighted reverse through ball.
The Scotsman had only the keeper to beat and did so to score his first Newcastle goal on his debut! 1-0.
A piece of magic from Almiron, brilliant run from Fraser and and tidy finish too, but the goal only painted over the cracks of a half which was extremely lethargic and contained prolonged spells of poor football.
Sean Longstaff, Joelinton and DeAndre Yedlin looked a few yards off the pace at best, with us struggling to put more than three passes together and being forced back by a bright Blackburn side.
In the second half, Rovers grew further into the game and started to threaten Mark Gillespie’s goal – something they were guilty of not doing enough in the first half despite their dominance. The new boy had to make a sharp double save to preserve his clean sheet and Ciaran Clark also did his bit to help out with a few key headers, blocks and vital interceptions on his first game back for almost seven months.
The warning signs were there for all to see and nothing was sticking to an isolated Joelinton. Lewis Holtby then went close a second time, with it feeling like a matter of time until the away side grabbed themselves a lifeline.
Our only chances of the second period came as a result of counter-attacks. Joelinton was at the centre of both – he sent a tame effort into the gloves of the goalkeeper when an easy pass to Murphy was the better option and then had the ball in the back of the net with a smart finish, only to be flagged offside.
Blackburn could’ve equalised in the closing stages, with Williams volleying over the crossbar from a corner. Then, Ben Brereton would’ve certainly scored if not for a last ditch Jacob Murphy challenge – who bizarrely took the captains armband when Ritchie was withdrawn with 10 minutes to play.
The final whistle blew and we are now through to the third round of the Carabao Cup to face Morecambe, but it certainly wasn’t a performance to remember and a worrying contrast to the one that saw us win comfortably at West Ham last weekend.
That said, it’s another win, another clean sheet, another assist for Almiron and another debut goal – this time via Ryan Fraser.
Mark Gillespie also looked rock solid, as did Ciaran Clark, however out of sorts trio Joelinton, Sean Longstaff and Yedlin did little to impress and we’ll have to hope Saint-Maximin is OK after twisting his knee late on and walking off gingerly at the full-time whistle.
This was certainly a step back after Saturday. It mirrored the blunt football of last season and it was very hard to watch at times. A win is a win, but the nature of that one against average Championship opposition (who were without a few of their star men for most of it) was concerning to watch.
We’re through, but that is perhaps a reality check for Steve Bruce and reminder that a few more additions are needed if our squad is to cope in league and cup this season.