STEVE BRUCE felt that the end justified the means as Newcastle United scrambled into the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup with a penalty shoot-out win over Newport County.

Newcastle looked to be heading out of the competition at the hands of their League Two opponents as they trailed for more than 80 minutes to Tristan Abrahams’ opener at Rodney Parade.

The Magpies toiled aimlessly for long periods in South Wales, but Jonjo Shelvey struck with a curled equaliser with three minutes left to send the game straight to penalties.

Joelinton missed at an early stage of the shoot-out, but after Mark Gillespie saved from Ryan Taylor, Newport centre-half Brandon Cooper blazed his sudden-death effort over the crossbar to secure Newcastle’s place in tomorrow’s quarter-final draw.

“We’re through in the cup,” said Bruce. “I thought we played very well in the last half-hour in particular, but it was one of those where we needed to score. We’ve had 27 attempts, with ten on target, but when you don’t take these chances it’s difficult, and we understand that’s our Achilles heel

“I promised everybody I’d have a go in the cups because I know what it means to people. We’ve got to a second quarter-final (after last season’s passage to the last eight of the FA Cup) – can we get through it? It would be great if we can.

“I was pleased with many aspects today, especially in the second half. It was difficult against awkward opponents, but we just needed to score and the longer it goes, it becomes more anxious.

“Look, we’re through. We got over it, and in my opinion we deserved it after a difficult first half in particular. We stepped up to the plate in the second half and, for me, deserved to go through.”

Nevertheless, having been admonished for his negative tactics in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Tottenham, Bruce came in for more criticism on social media in the wake of tonight’s game.

Newcastle were lacklustre and uninspired for long periods, with the complexion of the match only really changing after Callum Wilson and Joelinton came on as substitutes in the final half-hour.

Bruce accepts his team were not at their best, but feels his players deserve credit for the way in which they kept plugging away against a Newport side that have a proven track record of pulling off cup shocks.

“I’m the manager of Newcastle, and if you don’t win or you don’t perform then you get criticised,” he said. “I’m not immune to that. I agree fully that we didn’t play well enough, but all of a sudden now it’s questioning tactics and I just find the whole thing disappointing.

“I understand we didn’t play well, but we don’t go out there and not want to play well. Unfortunately, we haven’t. For large parts of the game, we didn’t tonight, but we stuck at it and towards the end, in the last 35 or 40 minutes, I thought we were dominant in possession and just had to take one of the chances we created.

“Newport certainly had belief, and we found it very difficult against them. Hats off to them, they defended with their lives towards the end, and it took a real bit of quality because I didn’t think the way it was going that we would get the breakthrough.”

Allan Saint-Maximin was not involved in tonight’s game, but Bruce is hoping the Frenchman will be available to face Burnley on Saturday night.

Dan Barlaser has featured in Newcastle’s previous two Carabao Cup matches, but the midfielder did not travel to Wales as he is on the verge of rejoining Championship side Rotherham United on loan.

“Barlaser looks as if he’s going down to Rotherham,” confirmed Bruce. “I didn’t want to stand in his way after playing a lot for them last year. I think there’s a deal nearly agreed with Rotherham. Allan wasn’t quite ready, but I hope he can be ready for the weekend.”