Down and out!
Newcastle’s dreams of a Wembley appearance evaporated in the cruelest of circumstances last night after losing to Hull City on penalties.
What will be hurting players and fans alike the most this morning however will be the knowledge that Newcastle could, and should, have had the game wrapped up like a nice early Christmas gift well before penalties were ever required.
STARTING XI: Sels, Anita (Yedlin, 109), Lascelles, Clark, Lazaar, Ritchie (Atsu, 81), Shelvey, Hayden (Murphy, 105), Gouffran, Diame, Gayle
Making a number of changes from the team that had succumbed to Blackburn at St James Park last weekend, Rafa put out pretty much his strongest eleven for this one with perhaps only Sels and Lazaar being the real surprise inclusions.
Newcastle would dominate the early stages of the game and whilst Hull would put one early chance wide it would be the visitors who would have the majority of the early chances with Diame heading over when he should have hit the target and Ritchie firing wide from 20 yards.
And it would be Shelvey once more who would dictate the game, picking the ball up from deep and spreading the play nicely for Newcastle. The half would finish 0-0 though with Newcastle well on top.
Hull would come out of the traps quickly after the break though and finally starting to look like the Premier League team in the tie but with Newcastle asserting themselves more and more as the half went on it only looked like a matter of time before Hull defence would crack under the pressure.
With extra time looming, and Newcastle piling forward in search of that illusive goal, the game would spark into life on 89 minutes when, following a foul by Lascelles on Mbokani, the Hull forward would firstly kick out at our centre back and then push his head into our mans face. The result would be a yellow for Lascelles for the foul and a straight red for the Hull man. Hull now down to 10 men.
The 90 minutes score would be 0-0 however and into extra time we’d go.
It was backs to the walls now for the Hull lads and Newcastle piled forward in wave after wave of attack. And finally on 98 minutes the breakthrough. An Anita would cross would find Diame unmarked in the box and the former Hull man would stab home to make it 1-0 Newcastle.
With Hull seemingly broken and with only 10 men this was as good a chance as Newcastle will ever have to finishing a game off. The lead, however would only last 60 seconds. And it would be egg on the face of our stand in keeper unfortunately as Sels would spill a shot from Henriksen allowing Snodgrass to bundle the ball home to make it 1-1. Heartbreaking suff.
Worse was to come however as neither side could find the breakthrough to kill the game and off the penalties we’d go.
And yes, we all know how it goes from there……
Penalties as they happened:
0-0 Shelvey (Miss, saved)
1-0 Snodgrass (Scores)
1-0 Gayle (Miss, hits bar)
2-0 Dawson (Scores)
2-1 Atsu (Scores)
3-1 Huddlestone (Scores)
3-1 Gouffran (Miss, saved)
That’s just one penalty scored of four attempts, and he’s on loan. That is also 9 losses in 10 penalty shoot outs since the introduction of penalties for domestic competitions. A quite shocking record.
After the game Rafa seemed furious that his team had not taken the chances that would and should have finished the game well before the 90 minutes was up.
Newcastle in fact would enjoy 61% of the possession away at a Premier League team, with 32 shots to the hosts 12.
This is a game that Newcastle should have won and comfortably.
And whilst social media lit up with frustrated Newcastle United fans at the final whistle it was the thought of how close we’d come to the Semi’s and the feeling of injustice that seemed to irk so many.
We are going to have to look at the positives of what last night taught us. We were the better side last night, against a Premier League team away. If, and we hope this doesn’t effect the morale in the camp too badly, we hit the ground running again in the league over coming weeks then we should be well on the way to securing Premier League football again for next season.
I have no doubt that if we do so Rafa will find a way to make a step change in the quality we have at our disposal to finish the chances we create.
A frustrating night, but in the end……. #InRafaWeTrust