FOR 50 years Newcastle United supporters have waited to celebrate a major trophy success, and there is no danger of that coming to an end this season based on what was served up at St James’ Park on Saturday.

In fact by the time the full-time whistle had blown, only the fans who turned up in their thousands again to watch a FA Cup tie on third round day against a Championship team could argue they wanted it.

While the 36,000-plus crowd, which included a hefty number of Rovers supporters, craved progress in a competition they last won in 1955, there was a feeling of dejection as soon as Rafa Benitez named his teamsheet.

And if Benitez, who claims he wants to go further in the FA Cup, doesn’t appear to have the hunger to try to end the Premier League top six’s domination of the competition, then how on earth are the players supposed to get up for it.

Throughout Mike Ashley’s 11-year ownership of Newcastle there has been a lack of respect shown towards the oldest competition in the world, which is highlighted by the fact that it is 13 years since they last went beyond the fourth round.

And while Benitez points to the fact he must have Premier League fixtures in mind when making eight changes to his cup starting line-up, all that fielding a weakened team has done has added a FA Cup replay and a midweek trip to Ewood Park to the schedule.

Aspects of Newcastle’s performance against Blackburn was disgusting. Far too many of the fringe players handed a chance smacked of having very little confidence and the self-belief they could impress on the St James’ stage.

There might have been worthwhile experience for the likes of Freddie Woodman, Jamie Sterry and Sean Longstaff, but all that multi-million pound players such as Joselu, Kenedy and Jacob Murphy could serve up was a reminder that they have completely lost their way on Tyneside.

Blackburn can count themselves unfortunate not to have held on to a lead delivered by the talented Bradley Dack in the 56th minute.

And yet it was still the fifth game in a row Newcastle have failed to win at St James’ Park and they could have done with a lift by turning in a performance and result achieved simply rather than through struggle.

Benitez said: “A replay is bad news. I am disappointed because we have to play another game. At home we have to try to finish and we didn’t play at the level we expected. I was pleased with the reaction.

“It is now another situation we have to manage, use more players, more risk. We tried and they pushed hard. You could see them running for every single ball. Overall the reaction was good in the final minutes and I will take that as a positive.”

Benitez got what he deserved.

It is true that the money at stake in the Premier League means top-flight survival must be the priority, but you can’t help but feel this was another occasion the Spaniard used to make his point.

He is not happy with the size and quality of his squad, and he is disappointed with the lack of transfer activity as the window enters its second week. He has real doubts there will be permanent signings made before the end of the month, at this rate he will be fortunate to have anyone on board.

It will have suited him to field an under-strength side, which is what he has done in the FA Cup throughout his time on Tyneside, even though he knows how special it is to have won it as Liverpool boss in 2006. He would go down in Tyneside folklore if he was to be the man to finally end the trophy drought, or even just to take the Magpies beyond round four would be a start.

It will not be happening this season if the current approach continues. The replay will be between games with Chelsea and Cardiff City, so Benitez will be reluctant to play his best players for all three games.

Matt Ritchie, the scorer of the penalty and the best Newcastle performer on the day, said: “Look, every pro wants to play every game he plays in and we’re no different. The FA Cup is such a special competition.

“As a kid, that was what I wanted to play in. I watched it all the time, the upsets, the Cup final, that’s why football is the best game in the world. I remember playing in the Cup for Swindon – when you played Premier League teams it’s an opportunity to express yourself. It’s played a huge part in my career.

“We were in the Championship so we’re used to playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday not too long ago. Your body adapts to it. Personally, I’d rather play in every game. I think any footballer would rather do that than train.

“The games come thick and fast for me and that’s fine. Obviously the manager will look to use players as he has done, but that’s what you have a 25 man squad before.”

Ritchie’s comments are not a reflection of every player, which is why Benitez suggested afterwards that he must leave out players who can’t handle rigorous schedules.

But the Scotland international’s display, full of hunger and determination to deliver a result, is a sign of his character, and he will be exactly the same in every game even if he is short of his best at times. That is why he is well liked by supporters.

The evening might have turned out differently had Newcastle’s positive start earned the lead. Joselu’s acrobatic volley was saved by goalkeeper David Raya, who then stopped a second effort when Kenedy struck low at goal.

After that the self-belief just wore thinner and thinner in the home side and it was summed up when Murphy missed the target by a mile from the edge of the area when Ritchie picked him out in acres of space after the break.

Then Blackburn had the lead. Elliott Bennett’s brilliant centre after a short free-kick dropped into the penalty area where Dack rose above his men to power a header high beyond Woodman.

Benitez sent for the cavalry. On came Jonjo Shelvey, Ayoze Perez and Christian Atsu, who all had an impact. After Shelvey had been denied by Raya, Perez then dribbled his way into the area and drew a foul from Corry Evans.

Ritchie stepped up with six minutes remaining and sent Raya the wrong way.

He said: “It was disappointing to go a goal behind, but we showed we had character. If the game had gone on any longer I think we would have won.”

They wouldn’t have deserved it.