Final Score: Newcastle United 1 Cardiff City 2
And so the long wait continues.
A banner reading ‘We haven't been to an FA Cup final at Wembley since 1999…So is 2014 our year?’ was held up in the south east corner of St James’ Park prior to kick-off on Saturday. The supporters behind that message didn’t get the answer they were looking for.
Once again Newcastle United go into the second week of January out of both domestic cup competitions with only the Premier League to play for after crashing out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle.
This time is wasn’t a shock defeat to lower league opposition, but it was just as painful and embarrassing after Cardiff City came from behind to beat Alan Pardew’s side at St James’ Park.
Papiss Cisse had given the Magpies a 62nd minute lead after a less than inspiring first half performance, but the Bluebirds, playing their first game under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, simply wanted a place in the fourth round more than their hosts, and they got it without playing particularly well.
Pardew has always maintained that both cup competitions provide his side with a great opportunity to win some silverware, but the fact is Newcastle have now gone out the FA Cup at this stage in three of the four seasons he has been in charge.
His decision to make seven changes – four of which were enforced through injury or suspension – backfired, even if his starting line-up still looked strong enough to overcome a Cardiff side that hadn’t won since mid December, especially at home.
Having gained a reputation for coming off the bench to score during his playing career, Solskjaer’s own double change proved the difference with Craig Noone and Fraizer Campbell both coming off the bench to score the goals that would seal the Norwegian’s first managerial win in English football.
The duo’s introduction changed the course of the game while the best the Magpies boss could come up with was to bring on Gabriel Obertan for Yoan Gouffran immediately after Cisse had put them in front.
Obertan was booed on by some sections of fans following reports he had stormed out of St James’ Park after learning he wasn’t in the squad to face Arsenal a week earlier and the Frenchman did very little during his 25 minutes on the pitch to justify his introduction. Shola Ameobi and Loic Remy were sent on with five minutes remaining.
Paul Lambert’s controversial comments that Premier League managers could ‘do without the FA Cup’ stirred up a debate whether the competition still holds the magic it was famous for, but judging by Newcastle’s display it isn’t just managers Lambert’s statement could apply to.
However, Gouffran, who was honest enough to admit the team deserved to lose, insists the defeat does hurt a squad that has performed above expectations in the league.
“We played very bad,” Gouffran said. “We had no fighting spirit and we deserved to lose the game.
“This hurts more than losing in the league because we really wanted to win something this year but we have lost in both cups. We felt we could go far in this competition but we didn’t play well.
“We wanted to win for the fans because we know what it means to them, but we played so bad and we are disappointed that we couldn’t give them something to cheer about.
“We scored one goal and we thought we were going to win then, but we gave away two goals and we are very disappointed. I am very angry, the manager was very angry with us.
“He spoke to us after the game and he was very angry. We can’t play like that at home. It was unacceptable and we have to try and change the mentality.”
Mark Hudson’s header was ruled out for a push in the ninth minute and the best it got for the Magpies in the opening 45 was Hatem Ben Arfa’s 22-yard curler that crashed off the woodwork.
Pardew’s cries for his side to move ‘quicker, quicker, quicker’ could be heard around St James’ Park and things did improve after the break when Cisse prodded home after Cardiff failed to clear the ball following a Moussa Sissoko shot.
But their lead was undone just over ten minutes later when Noone’s long range strike brought Cardiff level 60 seconds after he had come off the bench.
Campbell hit the same post Ben Arfa had minutes before he rose unmarked at the back post to head in Peter Whittingham’s corner with ten minutes left of normal time.
“We thought we were going to win after going ahead, so maybe we lost a little bit of intensity in our game and concentration,” Gouffran said. “We should have tried to get a second goal to kill them off but we didn’t and we gave away two bad goals.
“It’s been a bad start to the year but we will go out there and train and we will work as hard as we can. We’ve got fewer matches now so we can go out there with a good team spirit and get back to winning ways.”