Blackburn 2-4 Newcastle United (AET)
An FA Cup replay at Ewood Park offered the chance for Newcastle to get a much sort after win against a Blackburn team 14th in the Championship, albeit with two wins and a draw in their last three in all competitions.
And the contest was entertaining, for the most part, and ultimately fruitful for Rafa and his charges.
Four first half goals, with Newcastle taking a two goal advantage from first Longstaff in the opening minute and then Roberts on 22. But back came Blackburn with ex-Magpie Armstrong getting one back on 33 before Lenihan equalised in first half stoppage time.
The second half offered little of note, indeed it wasn’t until the second half of extra time that the breakthrough came. First from Joselu, stabbing home a rebound from a Schar hit, replays showing he was offside. The next a wonderful moment of quality from substitute Perez who’s angled drive is one to find on the highlight reel.
A couple of injuries will be a concern for Rafa, but his side at least are though. A home tie against Watford the prize, with the game to be played on Saturday 26 January.
Rafa would ring the changes once more for this one with Callum Roberts being handed his first start for the Magpies as the stand out change. The other, perhaps being fellow under 21 player Harker who would take his place on the bench as back up Keeper.
STARTING XI: Woodman, Sterry, Fernandez, Clark (Lascelles, 45) (Hayden, 57), Manquillo, Schar, Murphy, Longstaff, Roberts (Perez, 94), Ritchie (Atsu, 109), Joselu
And it was the perfect start for Newcastle. With just 57 seconds on the clock the ball was picked up by Longstaff 20 yards from goal. Perhaps the confidence of youth, but the young man decided to pull the trigger and his shot would take a huge deflection off Bell to wrong foot Raya Martin in the Rovers goal. 1-0. A fantastic start.
A chance for Newcastle to double their lead would fall to Ritchie on 13 minutes. A long ball over the top to Murphy allowed the winger to cut the ball back into the Scotsman’s path but Ritchie could only hit the ball straight at the keepers feet.
Newcastle workmanlike, Sitting relatively deep and seemingly unnerved with Blackburn having a good deal of the ball in the middle third of the pitch, whilst looking to spring the counter whenever possible.
On 21 minutes a dream goal for Roberts. A direct run from Murphy would cause Blackburn all sorts of issues. And when Murphy finally got his cross into the box there was Roberts to side foot home whilst under real pressure. A cracking finish from the young lad. 2-0.
Newcastle don’t like to make things easy though, do they. And having had no luck passing their way through the Newcastle back line it was a long ball, taken down by ex Mackem Graham and beautifully passed into the path of ex Mag Armstrong who slotted the ball between the onrushing Woodman’s legs. 1-2 and game on.
But then just before half time, disaster. A corner from Reed was met by Lenihan who was just stronger than both his markers to thump a header into the Newcastle net.
2-2 then at HT.
Newcastle started the second half strongly. First Bell nicked one of the head of Murphy, who would have had a free header at goal 4 yards out, then Ritchie fired over from 25 yards.
Lascelles, on for Clark at the break, was clearly struggling within minutes of coming on. It looks like both are now a doubt for Cardiff at the weekend.
Newcastle battled on. And on 60 they should have had a penalty, Lenihan following through on Joselu after the striker got his shot away. The challenge was similar to that which saw Wolves down to 10 men against City at the weekend. Poor decision from Probert.
The Magpies almost restored the lead again on 68 minutes. This time a Newcastle corner was met by the head of Hayden but he watched on as his effort hit the post and bounced back into play before being cleared.
As the clock ticked down it had the feeling of a game where one more goal would win it. Neither side however could find the breakthrough in normal time.
The first half of extra time delivered little of any quality until the final seconds. First Graham fed Dack who somehow fired wide with only the keeper to beat and clean through on goal. Moments later Joselu could. Schar with a fierce hit from fully 30 yards coming straight back off Raya in the Blackburn goal, with Joselu (clearly off side - not that the travelling 1,800 Newcastle fans, or indeed the linesman cared) stabbing home the rebound. 3-2
And moments later it was 4. And a wonderful goal at that. Perez racing down the right flank and into the box closely tracked by the Blackburn defence and at a seemingly impossible angle - or not. Perez unleashing a fantastic strike high and past the Rovers keeper. Class.
There could have been a 5th after a goalmouth scramble. Murphy racing clear and then stakes from Joselu and Atsu not finding the target.
And that was that. A bit of luck in the end, well overdue if you ask us!