Well, that was an absolute disaster and one of the most humiliating results we’ve seen at St James’ Park for some time, with Newcastle United dumped out of the FA Cup by League One strugglers Cambridge United.
Eddie Howe actually selected a strong side, with him not only handing a debut to Kieran Trippier barely 24 hours after his £12m move from Atletico Madrid, but also naming Dubravka, Schar, Shelvey, Joelinton and Saint-Maximin is his starting 11.
Yet, despite creating several decent chances, we never really looked like finding a way past Cambridge’s Dimitar Mitov; who put in a superb display but also benefited from some pretty tame finishing.
We had 23 shots to their seven, 12 corners to their one and almost 60% possession, yet no one could say we truly deserved to win that game and progress through to the fourth round.
In the end it was Joe Ironside – the man who idolised Alan Shearer as a kid and grew up watching games at St James’ – who won it for the U’s, with him pouncing on a mistake from Dubravka to score the ony goal of the game.
This was our chance to entertain a packed out SJP, fly into the fourth round and build confidence ahead of next weekend’s must-win clash with Watford, yet Cambridge wanted it more than us; which is inexcusable given all of the above.
STARTING 11: Dubravka – Trippier, Krafth, Schar, Ritchie (c) – Shelvey, S Longstaff – Murphy, Joelinton, Fraser – Saint-Maximin.
SUBS: Gillespie, Dummett, Manquillo*, Hendrick, Willock*, Anderson, White, Almiron*.
There were several missing – Callum Wilson (calf), Isaac Hayden (knee), Jamal Lewis (hamstring) Federico Fernandez (thigh), plus unexplained absences for Ciaran Clark, Jamaal Lascelles, Karl Darlow, Freddie Woodman and Dwight Gayle – however it was great to see Paul Dummett back on the bench for the first time this season, with U23 duo Elliot Anderson and Joe White also making the squad.
Trippier was stood out in the early stages, picking out a few lovely passes down the line, winning his duels and chasing down a ball brilliantly after a hopeful ball was pumped down the right-hand channel.
There was the odd good moment from us in the first half, as we created enough openings to have scored a couple of goals before the break, however a combination of feeble finishing and superb goalkeeping from Dimitar Mitov saw us go in at 0-0.
That said, we were very fortunate VAR didn’t award Cambridge a penalty on 35 minutes, with Matt Ritchie bringing down Harvey Knibbs after falling a sleep following a glancing header and showing a real lack of recovery pace as he attempted to catch up with the forward.
We got away with that one and also gifted the visitors a big chance on the 15-minute mark, as George Williams found himself free at the back post after a cleverly worked corner. It was awful marking, but thankfully his header was straight at Dubravka.
As for our chances, a lively Jacob Murphy forced Mitov into three good saves, with one coming from a clever cut back from Fraser, another being a curling shot across goal and the last being a thunderous strike that the Bulgarian somehow tipped onto the crossbar.
Spotted at St James’ Park was Newcastle United Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, sat alongside Amanda Staveley, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Majed Al Sorour; the CEO of Golf Saudi. They’ll know we need another striker following another injury to Callum Wilson, but this was more proof that we really struggle to finish our dinner when our top scorer and No 9 is absent.
The second half kicked off and Jacob Murphy had the ball in the back of the net just five minutes after the restart. He got in behind after latching onto a long ball from Schar, shifted it into his left and finished brilliantly to finally beat Mitov, however the offside flag went up just as the winger was celebrating what he and most of St James’ Park thought was the opening goal!
Moments later, another goal went in…only this time it was at the other end.
After we failed to stop the cross or deal with the second ball, Dubravka let slip and Joe Ironside – the man who idolised Alan Shearer growing up and once watched games at St James’ – put Cambridge in front after firing home on the turn.
VAR checked for a possible offside in the build up. It was tight, but the goal was given, sending 5,000 Cambridge fans wild up in the gods.
Dubravka was limping badly as the game restarted, yet it wasn’t him who was hauled off, with Howe reacting immediately by throwing on Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron for the poor Sean Longstaff and unfortunate Jacob Murphy – who had actually been one of our better players!
We were huffing and puffing, throwing balls into the box and keeping Cambridge pinned back in their own half, but we couldn’t seem to break down the yellow wall in front of us, continuing to look toothless without that clinical striker up top. There seemed to be no plan B and a lack of intensity to our pay, with some players visibly out of ideas and/or low on confidence.
Aside from a blocked Krafth shot and Joelinton effort that was superbly saved by Mitov at the death, we never really looked like scoring and Cambridge held on for a famous win.
New owners. Same old Newcastle United in cup competitions!
Next up, an absolute must-win clash with Watford next Saturday.