6:45pm, Tuesday 29th November. Newcastle fans eagerly awaiting the team announcement to face Hull City in the EFL Cup- the best fixture they could’ve hoped for, barring Leeds. After making 6 changes -to rest players- for his team against Blackburn on Saturday and subsequently sacrificing a record-breaking win, everyone was expecting a full strength line-up to tackle the Premier League competition. To many’s horror the first name on the team list: Sels. Oh dear.
Matz Sels started the season as first choice ‘keeper but after numerous blunders, the fans and gaffer lost faith and called for Darlow to be brought back between the sticks- a decision none have looked back on. Considering the fact that the Magpies had only conceded 3 goals since the start of October (4 including the Blackburn loss), it would’ve struck many that Karl would be the obvious choice to face opponents from the division above; given that he’s in form and has minutes under his belt. No matter, that’s an odd decision but at least we’ll have a strong strike force going forward…
Having not scored since the last round of the Cup, in the 6-0 win against Preston North End, Mo Diame was starting against his old team. An understandable choice given his performance in the previous round and the fact he might have insight into the way his old team play. Gayle- the record goalscorer- also started, but the thing that most baffled supporters was the exclusion, even from the bench, of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez. Both are regular starters in Championship ties and have their fair share of input in games, but Rafa had left them out, and instead selected Daryl Murphy.
As the match went on, Newcastle had no end of chances but failed to capitalise on any of them. It took until extra time for the first goal, falling to the Geordie lads. Jubilation for the travelling fans and everyone following at home- this could be our year, maybe finally get some silverware? These thoughts were short lived. Less than a minute later, after a poor mistake by Sels, Snodgrass equalised. After 120 minutes of action and countless attempts, despite being against 10 men since the 89th minute, the Magpies had failed to beat Hull which meant only one thing: penalties.
Since 1970/71 Newcastle had lost all but 1 of the shoot outs that they’d played; needless to say hopes weren’t high. Their performance in this instance can only be described as woeful. Shelvey and Gayle’s shots were saved and hit the crossbar, whilst Atsu’s goal offered little consolation as Hull had nailed all of theirs and Gouffran’s was kept out. A shameful end to what had been an incredible Cup run.
I know I speak for others when I say it’s been a massive disappointment, but we look ahead to this week’s fixture against Nottingham Forest and fingers crossed we get back to winning ways as we can now fully concentrate on gaining promotion and potentially winning the league.