For a club that’s won the FA Cup six times and made it to the final on 13 occasions (only Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal have more final appearances), Newcastle’s abysmal recent record in the competition is astounding.
Heading into Tuesday’s Fourth Round replay with third-tier Oxford United, Newcastle hadn’t advanced to the Fifth Round (the Round of 16) in 14 years — that’s despite the club being a Premier League side in each corresponding year apart from two.
Lowlights over that time include a 3-1 hammering from fourth-tier Stevenage back in 2011 and a 3-0 defeat to Oxford back in 2017. What’s more, after a 0-0 draw with bogeyman Oxford at St James' Park back on Jan. 25 forced Tuesday night’s replay at the haunted Kassam Stadium, Newcastle’s remarkable record of failing to score in the Fourth Round for 10 long years remained intact.
But all of that came to an end Tuesday as Newcastle fielded a strong starting XI before hanging on for dear life in a remarkable 3-2 victory that was overseen by Mike Ashley, who’ll certainly be vomiting into a fireplace tonight.
A big reason that Newcastle hasn’t advanced to the final 16 in forever coincides directly with the stewardship of Ashley. The Newcastle owner has always prioritized Premier League survival over any sort of Cup joy, but credit has to go to Steve Bruce for getting the club into the comfortable position of 12th at this point of the season and allowing for a strong team selection Tuesday.
The aesthetics of this Newcastle side and Bruce’s tactics were called into question following a 0-0 draw with Norwich City on Saturday that made for less pleasurable viewing than a pharisee watching Shakira and J. Lo shaking what their mothers gave them, but The Bent-Nose Man promised some slickness against the League One opposition. For 30 minutes, his side delivered.
In the 15th minute, Joelinton’s layoff for Sean Longstaff momentarily appeared to have been shutdown by Oxford’s defense, but the Geordie boy curled in an exquisite effort to give Newcastle the lead.
At the half hour mark Newcastle doubled its advantage. This time, Longstaff turned provider (incoming $100 million bid from Manchester United) with a glorious ball that Joelinton managed to steer home. Of course it wouldn’t be Joelinton without his chance including some sort of inexplicable action, and the Brazilian somehow managed to hurt his ribs while doing the act of scoring a goal. He's one of life's great mysteries.
The match looked over from there with the Kassam Stadium only really interested in treating Miguel Almirón as a pantomime villain. Personally, I don’t see how you can be mad at someone whose form of locomotion seems to be entirely derived from bobbing their head around — he’s got a skull like a steam engine — but again, Kassam Stadium is haunted and full of ghouls.
But Oxford finally pulled a goal back, and deservedly so, through Liam Kelly’s free kick in the 84th minute. The portly midfielder left Karl Darlow no chance with this fantastic bit of technique.
Oxford went close on a couple of chances after that, including one effort that was only a foot away from finding the back of the net, but Newcastle’s long-awaited arrival in the Fifth Round looked destined ... until Nathan Holland struck gold with a side-footed effort from outside the box in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time.
This is what the FA Cup is all about.
History looked bound to repeat itself with Oxford in the ascendancy and holding all the momentum, but as the game trickled toward penalties, Allan Saint-Maximin displayed all his best qualities when dancing around two defenders before firing an 18-yard effort into the far corner.
Newcastle is into the Fifth Round, and just look at what it means to them.
BONUS NEWCASTLE CONTENT
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 18, 2020