Updated: Sep 24
The fickle, knee-jerk, reactionary world of the football supporter has been under the spotlight over the last eleven days. After Newcastle United came away from London Town with the three points on the opening weekend, with debut goals from two new signings, the cautious optimism that had crept into the fanbase after a sensible transfer window was turned up a notch.
Wilson was our best striker since Shearer, Manquillo the new Warren Barton, Hendrick the second coming of Jesus Christ (a fantastic player in his day), Europe here we come! Then, after a flaccid display against Championship side Blackburn Rovers and an impotent, retracted, shriveled old balls of an embarrassment against Brighton we were back to being shit. Steve Bruce is a fraud, Saint-Maximin bottled it, Shelvey can’t pass a ball, we’re going down!
So what would this midweek bring, as Newcastle United made the 120 mile trip from East to West to face League Two’s Morecambe in the John Trotter Derby! How’s the shrimp, did ye say?
Fool me into paying £10 for a live stream once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, you get the gist. I settled down in front of my laptop after once again drawing the NE1’s Game short straw as match reporter for the Carabao Cup journey to Wembley and, like a second-choice goalkeeper, I fully expect to replaced if we reach the final.
Morecambe’s ground was renamed The Mazuma Stadium this summer and I immediately considered including bad jokes around our team not being very mobile but that would involve recycling old ones and…sorry, I’ll stop.
The build-up to the game was predictably billed by all, including our own manager, as Morecambe’s cup final. It seems that Newcastle United has become the only team that takes part in two cup competitions every season but never plays in a final – too good to be considered for the cliché, yet too poor to reach the actual finale. Stuck in seemingly eternal purgatory.
Steve Bruce named a strong starting eleven, with a trio of Matt Ritchie, Miguel Almirón and Jacob Murphy supporting Joelinton. Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden occupied the centre of midfield, in front of a back four of Emil Krafth, Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark and DeAndre Yedlin. Mark Gillespie return to his role as cup goalkeeper in a line-up which included five full internationals to face a League Two opponent that lost 0-5 at the weekend. In contrast to last week’s game against Blackburn, strikers were named as substitutes in case of further blanks being fired, as Andy Carroll parked himself in the area of Cal once again.
Newcastle controlled possession from the first whistle and in the 5th minute, Jacob Murphy drew a crowd down the right side before laying it back to Emil Krafth. The Swede passed it inside to Almirón , who quickly shifted it on to Joelinton in the box for the big Brazilian to sweep his shot into the bottom corner. I told you he was a centre forward!
After nine minutes, Murphy once again made good progress down the right side before dinking a cross to the far post for the unmarked Joelinton. I could kindly describe what happened next as an unselfish player thinking the ball was heading in and not wanting to take his teammate's goal from him, as Joe avoided its flight and watched it hit the far post before bouncing across goal. Less kindly, I could ask why a forward player who has just scored a goal is not wanting more and worrying about the feelings of his teammate afterwards. Instinct has been discussed at length by experts such as Alan Shearer and Supermac and this was the simplest of opportunities for him to double his tally and ideally build some confidence but it wasn’t to be, for now.
The game continued to be the Jacob Murphy show, who appeared to be possessed by the spirit of Hatem Ben Arfa, as in the thirteenth minute he played a curling cross into a dangerous area towards Joelinton who couldn’t quite get on the end of it. A few minutes later, Murphy controlled a long ball from the left with his right foot before hitting a curling effort with his left foot from outside the area which fizzed beyond the post. These cup games, and the squad rotation they bring, offer chances to impress and Murphy was certainly seizing his and showing signs that his spell on loan last season has developed both his physical and mental attributes.
In the twentieth minute, Murphy picked the ball up in the middle of the pitch and played a simple straight through ball which dissected the porous Morecambe defence and reached Almirón . The smiling assassin glanced at the linesman before rounding the goalkeeper and taking his time to steady himself. For a split second, I thought he was going to get down on all fours and head it over the line but he fired it into the roof of the net to make it 0-2 to the visitors.
This second goal for Newcastle sparked Morecambe into a brief response as they enjoyed some rare possession and in the 22nd minute, Diagouraga drove into the box from the right side and fired at Gillespie, who turned it round for a corner. The 'keeper maintaining his career clean sheet for his boyhood team.
In the 27th minute, the Murphy show continued as he picked the ball up in his own half before starting to run at the Morecambe defence. The spirit of HBA once more whispering into Jacob's ear, "Bolton". As Murphy progressed into the opposition half, a fortunate bounce from a weak tackle fell kindly and he continued towards goal before shooting from outside the box with his left foot to make it 0-3. What a cracker!
Almirón and Joelinton rotated as the focal point to the attack, with the other dropping deep and in the 31st minute the Brazilian picked the ball up on the left touchline. He turned inside the defender, looked up and drove towards goal before curling a long-range effort into the far corner to make it 0-4. Who was this man and what had they done with Big Joe?
After a horrendous performance at the weekend, a comfortable win for Newcastle with some confidence-boosting goals was exactly what everyone involved with the club needed from tonight and four goals after half an hour was better than anyone could have hoped for. Just two minutes later, things got even better for the away side as Longstaff’s heavy touch inside his own half invited a challenge from Diagouraga but the Morecambe man lunged into it with his studs showing and was shown a red card by the referee.
Four goals up against ten men led to an uneventful remainder of the first half, as Newcastle enjoyed total dominance of possession without really creating anything. However, just as attention was turning towards half-time, Isaac Hayden picked the ball up on the left and did a convincing Joelinton impression as he sent his shot flying into the far corner beyond the ‘keeper. Five nowt!
74% possession to Newcastle. Five goals. Joelinton with two. Morecambe down to ten men. In normal times, even the most pessimistic of fans would now be researching travel and accommodation plans for Newport as the League Two side now stands between Newcastle and a place in the quarter-final. In these wretched times, asking your Nana for another tenner to give to the EFL for a stream will have to suffice.
Half-time saw one change for Newcastle, as Ryan Fraser came on for Ciaran Clark in a switch that saw Krafth move to central defence, Yedlin to right back and Ritchie to left back to allow Fraser to take his place on the left of midfield. Most games with a substantial half-time lead tend to play out the second half in a damage limitation versus energy saving pattern and I expected this would go the same way, with a game against Son and Kane to come at the weekend.
However, five minutes into the second half, the impressive Murphy shot from range but his left-footed effort was deflected for a corner. Ritchie came across to the right to send in an in-swinging ball which Jamaal Lascelles got up to head in at the near post. SIX!
The next ten minutes saw total dominance of the ball from Newcastle which was only interrupted by some long range shooting from Hayden and Longstaff, rather than Morecambe tackles. Around the hour mark, Almirón volleyed over as his final contribution before making way for Andy Carroll. Having not scored for Newcastle since his return, this seemed like the opportunity for Carroll to get off the mark with half an hour to go of what was turning into a training ground exercise. Dan Barlaser also replaced Hayden at this point, which wasn’t noticed until a couple of minutes later due to the single camera angle not showing the substitution!
Newcastle were now firmly camped in Morecambe’s half, with the defensive line five yards inside their opponent’s half. After seventy-one minutes, another Ritchie corner from the right found Emil Krafth at the far post but the Swede’s poked effort towards goal was cleared off the line.
After a couple of half chances, including weak headers and a speculative overhead kick, Carroll had his chance to add his name to the scoresheet as more nice play down the right from Murphy ended with a cross to the back post which Carroll got up to head but disappointingly missed the target. Two minutes later, Murphy produced again from the right for Ryan Fraser to head off the bar from a central position.
After an impressive first half, Jacob Murphy continued to show for the ball, created opportunities and looked lively. In a second half with little to play for, with the result guaranteed, a manager would surely be looking to see players continue to impress and influence the game and Murphy certainly did that.
The same could not be said for Joelinton, however, who faded out of the game in the second half. As with the moment he avoided Murphy’s cross in the first half, his second half performance showed why there are doubts about him ever becoming a regular goal scorer. Morecambe were there for the taking and with total dominance of possession and field position, he had the ideal opportunity to go and grab more goals. Instead, he dropped deeper and wider and never got in the positions that led to his first half chances. It might be hyper-critical, after his two first half goals, but hunger and desire to get involved with goals is something we all want to see from him. We all want him to succeed and going on to get three or four here would have surely been a big confidence boost for him. Playing out the second forty-five relatively anonymously undid some of the positivity of the first forty-five, for me at least.
As the game drifted to its conclusion, the Morecambe goalkeeper took as long as he could with every goal kick in an attempt to reduce the time Newcastle had to extend their lead. Rumour has it that, at one point, he was spotted in a local sporting goods store purchasing a new ball rather than collect the one lying behind his goal. Alas, his plan did not work and as the clock struck 90', Dan Barlaser played the ball into the box towards Matt Ritchie, who flicked it onto the defender and the ball squirmed beyond the helpless ‘keeper to add ‘OG’ to the scoresheet. There was still time for Sean Longstaff’s 25th effort from range before the referee blew for full-time. 26th time's a charm, Sean.
It doesn't get any more comfortable than this game, as Newcastle asserted their dominance from the first whistle and the gulf in class between League Two and Premier League was evident throughout. Of course, that is not always the case in these ties and the team has to go out there and perform to a standard rather than rely on their status to get a result. It was a strong starting eleven, showing the depth that Steve Bruce has to work with as he rotates through a congested fixture list, and unlike the Blackburn game the players responded to their opportunity. Murphy was the standout man of the match and if Allan Saint-Maximin is struggling with injury, he deserves his place after tonight's performance. Hopefully, Almirón's goal and assist also earn him a place in the starting eleven ahead of the ineffective Carroll.
Seven goals, a clean sheet and no injuries. It really could not have gone any better tonight and attention now switches back to the Premier League this weekend as an improvement from the Brighton game becomes priority. Good results have recently felt like a momentary relief rather than a sign of sustained improvement and a positive performance against Spurs is needed to avoid that familiar feeling again. The Newcastle United yo-yo is in full swing already after four games as we've spun from great to shit to tonight's seventh heaven. Consistency, development and progress has to be the aim now to avoid the positivity that momentum brings being squandered again.
For now, though, League Two Newport County stand between Newcastle United and the quarter-finals of a cup competition. Tell me ma, me ma...