THE FA Cup has not been kind to Newcastle United when it comes to meeting Brighton and Hove Albion – but they only had themselves to blame after another south coast horror show.
It was 30 years ago to the weekend that Albion began their eventual charge to a Wembley final with a victory over the Magpies. And while that time Brighton had to force a St James’ Park replay, there was no chance of that happening at the American Express Community Stadium on Saturday.
It is false to suggest that this was a cup upset. Newcastle may well be in a higher division – although they appear to be working on changing that – but Brighton, under manager Gus Poyet, have built an attractive team and looked stronger in most positions.
Man for man, it was difficult to bet against the hosts, who had similarly dumped Newcastle out of the cup a year ago. And the result went the way of form, aided by the second-half sending off of Shola Ameobi.
Defender Mike Williamson admitted that Brighton, on the day, were the better side against possibly the weakest Newcastle United XI all season.
“They’re a good team, Brighton, we knew that. And we didn’t underestimate them. We knew what they were about, we went there and we didn’t have enough to match them and that’s the disappointment,” said Williamson, who saw Mehdi Abeid, James Tavernier, Rob Elliot, Nile Ranger and Paul Dummett thrown in at the Amex.
“The players and the staff have to keep digging deep and stick together as a group.
“It wasn’t for the lack of effort.
The lads worked their socks off but we’re down to the bare bones. There’s no hiding that, we’re in a difficult patch right now. The lads who came in worked hard and that’s all you can ask. We were found lacking in every area.
“It’s part and parcel of football.
Everyone’s been there.
You’re young, you want to make an impression, sometimes you have days like this.
“Next week we could bring young lads in, score, get man of the match, and everything’s happy again. You have to go through these experiences and it shows what you’re made of.”
In a game low on chances, Newcastle – missing Papiss Cisse and Fabricio Coloccini among others – registered two in the first half, and two in the second half, but they can barely be considered clear cut.
David Lopez, playing in an unorthodox right-back role, crossed in for Gary Dicker in the eighth minute, who headed from a seemingly impossible angle only to see James Perch clear off the line, before another Lopez cross, this time driven at Elliot, saw the standin keeper save well.
At the other end, Gabriel Obertan failed to fool Casper Ankergren with a chipped effort, the Albion keeper on his line and saving, while Gael Bigirimana warmed Ankergren’s palms with a longrange effort.
But the first real piece of quality brought the game’s first goal. Wayne Bridge, on loan from Manchester City – a player who Poyet admitted he was lucky to have – managed to get to a long ball aimed for the byline and arrowed a cross in for Orlandi who, with his first touch scooped over Williamson’s head, then with his second, fired past Elliot.
Questions were raised as to how Williamson did not close Orlandi down, and why Perch, yards away, did not attempt to do a similar thing once he lined up a shot.
Alan Pardew had a rethink at half-time. Unhappy with his five-man midfield, he brought Ranger into the fray and replaced the injured Perch with left-back Dummett, who returned from a loan spell at St Mirren last week.
The switch to include an extra forward looked a positive one, but systems have a funny way of failing if the personnel asked to fill those positions are not up to the task.
Ranger squandered a golden chance when he volleyed high and wide into the 1,978 Newcastle fans behind the goal when he ought to have done better.
And Newcastle’s task took on extra difficulty when Shola Ameobi, already on a yellow card, left his foot in on a tackle on Lopez. The full-back’s reaction was theatrical, but Lee Probert had no hesitation in giving the Nigeria striker a second yellow.
On 77 minutes, Sammy Ameobi jinked into the penalty area and chipped a cross in, to see it deflected off Lopez and cleared by Ankergren.
That was part of a Magpies spell which was encouraging but fruitless, and their misery was compounded when Albion carved through the visitors’ backline, Lopez slotting in former Rotherham youngster Will Hoskins who teased a low shot in between Elliot’s legs to put the game out of sight.
Williamson paid tribute to the Newcastle fans who made the 600-mile trip to Sussex to see their side well beaten.
“They’re the main ones you feel for after a game,” he said.
“I have not been to a club where the fans are as passionate.
The whole city feels it.
“When we were on it last year it was vibrant and people were going to work happy people. This is a contrasting season. We’ve had everything go against us this year whereas last year everything was dropping for us.
“We’ve got injuries and we’ve got to make do. We just have to grind it out.
“The fans always turn up, regardless. They always make themselves heard and credit to them.
“The players have to produce a performance to justify that, unfortunately we didn’t do that on Saturday.”