Newcastle hosted Nottingham Forest in the League Cup this evening looking to ease into Round 3 and put in a performance that would get their season started.
There would of course be the expected raft of changes for both sides with only Mbemba retaining his place from the weekend disappointment against Huddersfield.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Sterry (Lazaar, 57), Hanley, Mbemba, Gamez, Murphy, Saivet, Barlaser (Hayden, 70), Aarons (Ritchie, 76), Diame, Mitrovic (Joselu, 105)
And it didn’t take long for the Magpies to get of the mark in this game and at the same time break this seasons duck in front of goal.
After a fast side by both sides a run and fine ball from Aarons found Mitrovic who’s neat side step and powerful hit would be slammed past the Forest keeper and into the roof of the net to give Rafa and his men the perfect start and settle the nerves all round.
And it was almost two when Mo Diame, again with a rare start, spotted Smith off his line in the Forest goal and his attempt from the half way line almost crept into under the bar.
Forest, to be fair hadn’t come to roll over in this one and continued to push forward without really troubling Darlow until the 23rd minute when a cracking drive from distance from Jason Cummings had to be pushed to safety.
That should have been a warning to Newcastle as just a few minutes later a good move from Forest saw the ball cut back to an unmarked Clough on the edge of the Newcastle box who’s dink into the centre was nodded home by an unmarked Jason Cummings.
1-1 on 29 minutes, and 120 seconds later things got a whole lot worse for Newcastle when a long ball over the top saw Darlow rush to the edge of the box only for Jason Cummings to lob the keeper to send the travelling Forest fans into ecstasy.
Saivet should have brought Newcastle back level moments later when a poor clearance saw his shot from distance gathered by the Forest keeper after being caught out of position momentarily.
Things could have been worse as Forest, now with their tails up had a couple of decent chances to extend their lead, partly down to Newcastle’s continued tendency to gift the visitors the chance to pressurise the Newcastle goal.
But on the stoke of half time Rolando Aarons, back to full fitness after another season last time out of sparse game time, who would deliver just the tonic Rafa would need. A run to the edge of the box, the shift of the ball to his right foot, and one stunning strike later and it was 2-2. A breathtaking finish and a much needed one.
At the half time whistle there would be plenty of praise for Aarons, not just for dragging his side back into the game but for his overall performance in the first 45.
Into the second half and an early chance for Newcastle with a Mitrovic header being tipped wide by Smith.
Next Murphy hit a fantastic curling effort which was arrowing straight into the top corner before Smith once more made a quite outstanding save to keep the teams level at 2-2.
The 27,709 were now watching a much more even game with Newcastle pushing forward on the flanks in particular with a good run from Murphy finally seeing his shot go wide of the target.
Newcastle now well on top would have chances for Lazaar, Mitrovic and Murphy go begging. Then a worry as Aarons, star man of the night with a goal and an assist then went straight down the tunnel after being taken off and replaced by Ritchie. One can only hope that’s for some kind of warm down rather than an injury which would be devastating for the young lad.
Up top Mitrovic was doing a real job for the team, rustling a few feathers with the Forest back line, and making a real nuisance of himself - for once in a good way!
With he clock ticking to injury time there would be huge chances at each end. First Ritchie would cut in onto his left and clip the post with a cracking effort. And then at the other end a free kick from Cummings, who had two already, would then smash Darlow’s bar.
2-2 at full time then.
Certainly not what anyone in St James Park would have wanted but into Extra Time it was with the possibility of penalties looming large.
Disaster. A corner for Forest headed back towards goal would be nudged home by Walker on the line for Forest to make it 3-2. Once more the defending from Newcastle was laughable.
That goal just seconds after Forest had made their 4th (fourth) substitution, something now allowed in this competition where games go into extra time. The man on, to warm applause being a certain Daryl Murphy.
With just 15 minutes left Rafa would be forced into his last change with Joselu on for Mitrovic who also seemed to be struggling with some muscle pain.
And that half - well a damp squib quite frankly!
No invention, no leadership, a few thumps from far too far out.
Over and OUT.