On a cold Tuesday night, United descended on the arse end of the country, “Hull”. Even the word “Hull” reeks of ‘bang average’. What a naff place to have to endure the torture that was our heartbreaking cup exit.
We, a squashed car of five lads, arrived on that long road near the stadium full of dated pubs, kebab shops and off licenses. Literally every other building was an off license. Horrid. After some bang average food and a few bang average pints, we joined the other 2500 Mags gathering at the KC… did I mention that their stadium is also bang average.
Alas, we were there for the football, and we got plenty of that. 120 minutes. 2 hours.
Newcastle put out the expected strong side, with the one surprise inclusion of Lazaar at left back with Set-Piece Dummett dropped to the bench. We’ll come on to Matz Sels shortly but he had to start this game to ever have a chance of reviving his chances in England. Most clubs play their second choice keeper for cup games and Sels is meant to be good enough for that not to be an issue.
We started nervously which was surprising given the spine tingling noise coming from the Newcastle corner in the first 20 minutes. Hull are no better than us on or off paper and we gave them too much respect early on. It took a while for us to get into the game but once the lads realized what they were up against, we took control as we have in nearly every other game this season.
Gayle was put through one on one by Shelvey midway through the first half but shot too early for an easy save. Other chances came from a number of set pieces, the closes of which fell for Ritchie near half time who fired inches over the bar. We should have been ahead at half time.
Second half was similar. We started slowly but had the better of the chances. There were a number of excellent saves from their keeper, who eventually got MOM, keeping out Gayle, Gouffran and Lazaar. I think it’s fair to acknowledge that although Hull are by no means a good side (they will go down), they were still a higher level of opposition than anybody we have played this season. As a result we looked tired by the 70th minute.
Around this time, Diamé was drawing a lot of criticism from the stands which baffled me as he was the only player in my eyes who still had the energy to push on. He was let down by our midfield who were struggling to get up the pitch. Shelvey and Hayden are both good footballers. Neither had a bad game but both have a habit of sitting deep, just outside our box awaiting the ball. This left Diamé, Gouffran and later Atsu quite isolated up the pitch. As the game drew on it was getting harder to get forward and create chances. It was looking like penalties would be the only way by the 85th minute.
However, just to further tease us, a stroke of luck (thanks to a stroke of stupidity) as Mbokani reacted to a strong challenge from Lascelles by putting his head into him. Red card and we had 10 men to play against in extra time.
Hull, to their credit, remained organized and limited our chances in the 30 minutes but we were in control and desperately pushing for a winner in open play. Cross after cross went into the box but were dealt with quite easily by their very deep defense. Alas, the breakthrough was made as ball (from a short corner!) was flicked to the far post where Diamé stabbed it in. He deserved the goal for a strong 120 minute performance. A scruffy goal but we thought that was it.
This is Newcastle United though and we just don’t get anything for free. Whilst still celebrating the goal and singing about Wembley for the first time in over a decade, Hull lumped the ball forward and after some sloppy defending it fell to a Hull player who shot straight at Sels. Sels elected to palm the ball out unconvincing straight into the path of Rob Snodgrass who slotted it past him to equalize. For fuck sake.
On reflection, over the two hours, Newcastle were by far the better team. We matched a PL team in all departments and created far more big chances. It just wasn’t our day in that respect. I won’t go into the penalties. We’d given as much as we had before the final whistle. We took 4 bad pens and they took 4 good ones. Apparently we’ve only ever won once on pens. We just looked spent and it was over before we knew it. Most importantly, we didn’t take our chances.
Sels hasn’t made a real save in the game and had a mare at the one crucial point. Unfortunately for him, that’s probably his United career done. This was his chance to start again and he will now only be remembered for this. Rafa can’t play him any more as the crowd will crucify him for any little mistake. We’ll never quite know what this signing was about or if he could have come good but I see Krul and Darlow as 1 and 2 next season in an ideal world. Bye Matz. Cheers.
So we’re out. Whilst still bitterly disappointed the morning after, it’s important to reflect on where we are as a club though. We outplayed a PL team in open play in a cup quarter final. We’re top of the league and have the best manager we’ve ever had at the helm. We’ll get over this fast because there’s so much more to come under this man.
Viva la Rafalution.
Newcastle United Sels 4, Anita 7 (Yedlin 6), Lascelles 8, Clark 7, Lazaar 7, Shelvey 7, Hayden 7, Gouffran 7, DIAME 8, Ritchie 6, Gayle 7
Our fans – 8
A decent crowd, we made plenty of noise and stayed with them to the end. That it was a Tuesday evening may have impacted on levels of alcohol consumption and thus overall crowd presence but it was still one of our better performances this season.
Their fans/club – 1
The half empty ground took something away from the occasion. Whilst it probably worked in their favour, it just doesn’t feel right to me to deny people the chance to watch their team in a quarter final in favour of an empty seat. They can fuck off. The ones that were there were a non-entity because of aforementioned empty seats
SIMON CAMPBELL – Follow Simon on @
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