Club Focus – Newcastle United – FA Cup humiliation for Magpies

Newcastle United were on the receiving end of one of the biggest FA Cup upsets of recent times as they suffered a shock defeat to Stevenage Borough. The League Two side were deserved victors as they won 3-1 against the 10 men of Newcastle.

Despite there being 73 league places separating the two clubs the gulf was not apparent as Alan Pardew’s side looked bereft of ideas and fighting spirit. It is probably the Magpies’ biggest cup upset since their infamous defeat to Hereford United in the 1970s. For Stevenage it was a case of second time lucky after running Newcastle close in 1998 on two occasions.

For manager Pardew it was his first major blow since being appointed in December. In the build up to Saturday’s game he had been bullish on his side’s chances of enjoying a long run in the historic cup competition, having enjoyed good spells both as a player and as a manager, but he was unable to find similar enthusiasm from his players given their response in the surroundings of Broadhall Way. There was little quality from a team containing five international players as Newcastle were unable to create many goal scoring opportunities. Although Stevenage’s opener was due to a large degree of luck there could be little argument it was undeserved. To make matters worse key midfielder Cheik Tiote was sent off for serious foul play just over 12 minutes after coming on. The card was debatable as Tiote got plenty of the ball and Pardew may look to appeal the decision. The African’s physical presence will be needed in the forthcoming derby match at Sunderland.

With a number of injury problems blighting the first team squad going into the weekend’s game Pardew made five changes for the cup clash. The incoming players failed to take their chance to shine and could find their future with the club under threat. There was a lopsided look to the Newcastle team with the normally right-sided James Perch and Joey Barton played in unfamiliar positions down the left flank. This may have played a part in Newcastle’s lack of coherence over the 90 minutes. Pardew cited tiredness after a gruelling schedule over Christmas and the New Year as a factor in his team’s defeat. After the game he said: “We were running on empty. It’s been such a tough sequence of games. The team was a shadow of the team which played at Wigan and West Ham. Our energy level just couldn’t match theirs.

Perhaps the only good news over the weekend came when potential future star Haris Vuckic signed a long-term deal with the club. The Slovenian has become the latest player to sign a new deal that will tie him to Newcastle until 2016. The 18-year-old has been linked to some of the continent’s top clubs in the past but will now continue his development on Tyneside. Meanwhile Pardew has played down speculation that striker-cum-midfielder Alan Smith could return to his former club Leeds United in a loan deal. Smith has been restricted in his appearances this season after being a regular for much of the last campaign. But with his replacement Tiote likely to be ruled out for three games it is unlikely he will be allowed to leave.

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