With the festive period behind us and a week until the next league fixture, at home to Swansea, Rafa Benitez did as he’d promised and put out strong side for this 3rd Round FA Cup clash.
With Mbemba and Lejeune both out still with injury there was perhaps a lack to choose to be fair in some departments although the only real significant omission form a team you’d expect to see for any league game was Darlow missing after being replaced by under 20 World Cup winning keeper Freddie Woodman.
STARTING XI: Woodman, Manquillo, Lascelles (Hayden, 30), Clark, Dummett, Shelvey (Diame, 71), Merino (Saivet, 80), Murphy, Perez, Ritchie, Gayle
Newcastle started really well and could have been ahead within a minute of kick off when a Murphy shot was deflected narrowly wide.
And the hosts would enjoy plenty of the early possession as they looked for force the early pace against League 2 high flyers. Having lost just 4 times in 26 games in the league scoring 62 goals in the process, more then two a game, this was of course a potential banana skin that Rafa would be looking to steer well clear of.
All the early chances would come for Newcastle, as you’d expect, with shots from distance not really troubling Stech in the Luton goal.
On 30 minutes the breakthrough. A Gayle free kick looked like it should have been a routine save for Stech but the league two keeper fumbled the ball allowing Perez to stab home to make it 1-0 to Newcastle.
A worry for Newcastle immediately after the gaol however with Lascelles being replaced by Hayden at centre half. Let’s hope that one isn’t an injury as United have looked a different side at the back since his return to the side.
The lead, however, no more that Newcastle deserved fro their early dominance.
Within 7 minutes it was 2 for Newcastle and 2 for Perez. Again good work from Gayle with a decent header at goal, again the Luton keeper should have done better, again Perez on hand to pop another one in the back of the Luton goal.
Next it was the turn of Shelvey to get in the act as this time Jonjo got his first of the season when good play from Perez and then Gayle afforded Shelvey the chance to stroke home from distance. His first since April 2017.
A corner in injury time have Luke Berry a great chance for Luton to get one back but the header would miss the goal by some distance when really he should have at least hit the target.
3-0 at half time and other than a worrying injury to Lascelles a perfect first half.
In the second half Luton came out like a different team. A half time talk must have been along the lines of ‘we’ve nothing to lose, go out and give it a go’. And so they did…
Just four minutes into the half and Luton had one back. Danny Hylton with a smart finish form inside the box with he goal that stirred Luton and the game into a game that would see a number of further chances at both ends.
Luton will think themselves most unlucky not to have pulled another one back after first Hylton had an effort ruled out for offside whilst Elliot Lee , son of ex Newcastle star Rob Lee, also crashed a free kick against the bar on 74 minutes.
Newcastle had their chances too with Perez and Gayle both having chances to extend the lead further.
The game would finish 3-1, a good day at the office.
For his part, Woodman will be a little disappointed with the goal he conceded having rushed out when he probably should have stayed at home. The experience and some good save, one in particular that caught the eye, will do him the world of good for the future on his full debut.
On to round 4 we go. Let’s hope for a little luck and a home draw!