What can you say about that? I don’t think I’ve felt as happy with NUFC for many a year and the good times continued to roll with a thumping 6-0 victory that fired us into the last eight of the League Cup in front of a jubilant and frankly staggeringly full SJP on a memorable night. Rafa made six changes from Saturday but such is the strength of the squad that we are pretty much replacing like for like these days bar a couple of exceptions.
The match started brightly and we almost took the lead early on when the very impressive Hayden cut inside on the edge of the box but crashed his effort off the post, with the ball flashing agonisingly along the goal-line to safety. We were ahead inside twenty minutes through a simple yet well executed goal though when Ritchie floated over a perfect free kick onto Mitrovic’s head from six yards out and he made no mistake. If Preston were struggling after going a goal behind, they were on their knees just minutes later when they found themselves down to ten men. Colback and Browne went up for a 50/50 ball on the half way line but the Preston man not only led with his elbow but actively flung it in Colback’s direction – a disgraceful challenge that rightly led to a straight red and ended our man’s involvement in the game with Shelvey coming on in his place. Hark at us man – Champions League winner in the dugout and Jonjo Shelvey coming off the bench. Crackers.
If we weren’t in total control beforehand, we certainly were now and we doubled our lead with a fine strike from Diame into the bottom corner after a lightning quick break. He had by far his best game for us tonight and should have registered his second goal just moments later when again we broke to expose the holes in their defence and Mitrovic unselfishly squared it for what looked like a tap in but ended up being screwed terribly wide by the Senegalese but when the half time whistle went, we were already contemplating our opponents in the quarters.
There were only eight minutes gone in the second half when we stretched our lead further after Ritchie was clearly upended in the box by Wright. After what could have been an embarrassing battle of wits with Mitrovic over who was taking the penalty with the ball ending up stuffed up Ritchie’s shirt and the Serb stomping off in a huff, Ritchie thankfully slammed a convincing spot kick high into the roof of the net to put us three up.
Mitrovic’s frustration didn’t last long though as he scored arguably the goal of the night, keeping his composure to round the keeper and shimmy past what felt like about five defenders before slotting the ball home in front of an ecstatic Gallowgate. I’ll openly admit to being highly dubious about the big man’s ‘qualities’ but he was fantastic tonight and managed to channel his eagerness in the right manner and the goal was one of real class. Atsu almost made it five shortly after when his cross/shot was tipped onto the bar by Lindegaard in the Preston net and with half an hour still to go, you felt like we could go on to really run riot if we put our foot down.
Hayden nodded home from point blank range when it looked easier to score and Anita and Perez were brought into the fray with Preston looking like a sorry outfit, praying for the final whistle. Diame hit the post again and every time we came forward we looked like we could score and score again he did with another fine effort from the edge of the box with three minutes to go – from the sublime to the ridiculous with him tonight but a great performance overall. Folk were giddy with it all now and substitute Perez put the icing on the cake when he stroked home a ball that fell to him inside the box with another classy finish to make it six.
The night ended with Mitrovic dancing on the pitch in front of the Gallowgate and I’m still absolutely buzzing writing this back in the house getting tucked into a bottle of red past midnight. We are a decent draw in the next round (with at the very least Leeds and Hull still left in the hat with us) from heading into really exciting territory and like thousands of others, I can’t wait for Deepdale on Saturday. There’s roughly 95 games this season but I’m finding that I can’t wait for the next game at the minute – the weekend seems like miles off but as sad as it sounds, I’ve probably spent at least the last three years at SJP prior to Rafa coming in looking at the digital clock in the corner thinking ‘Fucking hell, this is taking ages, can we not just get down to the Forth for a pint’. Now, I’m enjoying every minute of it and it’s just absofuckinglutely great. To state the obvious, it’s not always like this so let’s just make the most of it because life doesn’t get much better than this at the minute.
Get. The. Fuck. In.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Sels 7, Yedlin 8, Mbemba 7, Hanley 7, Dummett 8 (Anita 7), Colback 6 (Shelvey 9), Hayden 8, Atsu 7, Ritchie 8 (Perez 7), Diame 9, MITROVIC 9
Ref – Madley – 8 – Got the red spot on and he was on top of everything that was being dished out
Our Fans – 8 – Love in, nigh on 50k, fantastic
Their Fans – 6 – More for the ones that stopped to the end.
GARETH HARRISON – FOLLOW GARETH ON @truefaith1892
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