Date: 8th January 2011 at 11:27pm
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To add to our historical FA Cup woes, Newcastle United were beaten by League Two Stevenage in what can only be described as emphatic fashion.

Nearly 40 years since Hereford Utd humbled the black and whites, to provide broadcasters with ammunitione every time the FA Cup takes the seasonal stage, Stevenage provided yet more footage to make many a Mag’s stomach tighten.

I’m too young to remember the ignomny first hand when Ronnie Radford et al dumped us out of the cup. But I am old enough to remember the first time Stevenage came close to a giant-killing against us, with a side including Alan Shearer. There was much animosity surrounding that tie, with the bitterness that came from our win lasting until this tie over a decade later. This time round though the underdogs had their day and their chance to right what they saw as a wrong.

Graham Westley had talked up his young and ambitious club with obvious good reason, as Newcastle United were outthought, outmanaged, outfought, outplayed and dare I say it, even outsung on a historic occasion.

With the mackems and Boro already dumped unceremoniously out of the competition, it was inevitable folly to mock our rivals with a tricky tie of our own ahead. And sure enough, in a 3rd round North East nightmare, we became the latest of the big three to suffer at the hands of a team several divisions below us.

Alan Pardew had squad headaches with various injuries but even given those limitations put out a baffling formation and made some questionable inclusions with players who are clearly not up to the task. Even considering that, there should have been enough on show to prove too strong even for the pluckiest of lower league teams.

However, that relied on the away side being up for the challenge and they were put unquestionably in the shade of the bright Broadhall Way floodlights, by a determined and capable Stevenage side.

The first half was actually a largely forgettable affair for the away supporters and the neutrals, although the home side would have taken strength from a combative performance and all but no threat from their Premiership counterparts. Playing with Joey Barton on the left of midfield, Alan Smith and Kevin Nolan huffed and puffed in the middle while Routledge made short contribution on the right. Lovenkrands and Best were fed scraps of long balls but looked shy of posing any of the threat they did against West Ham.

Having seen his side struggle to make any impact in the first half, Pardew made changes in the second. Bringing on Ranger for Best he inexplicably chose to play a 4-5-1 with Lovenkrands replacing Barton who moved back into the middle. It didn’t seem the most sensible choice having watched a young Ranger lacking confidence in recent games and the ability to make things stick upfront.

That proved fatal, as Stevenage enjoyed a fruitful start to the second half and the away side looking misshapen and unorganised. Within five minutes of the restart, a Stacy Long shot was wickedly deflected off Willamson and sent Krul the wrong way before nestling in the back of the net for 1-0.

It wasn’t long before that lead was extended when sloppy play led to a break for Stevenage. Unable to clear their lines, the Newcastle defence allowed a free ball to fall to Bostwick who’s smart drive went in off the post to send the home fans delerious.

Pardew then sacrificed Alan Smith, who’s only contribution had been to get his customary yellow card. His replacement raised eyebrows as Cheik Tiote was already walking a tightrope with a collecion of yellow cards and was close to a ban. However, he went one better than Smith and saw red ten minutes later for what looked like a challenge that got the ball. But the nature of the tackle, where he left the floor with both feet, was enough for the ref to decide to give him is marching orders.

The game was effectively already over but that dismissal just rubbed salt into the wounds and if anything, the away side became even more dishevelled. In spite of that, with young Phil Airey being thrown into the mire and making his debut, Joey Barton finally put his stamp on the game with a great strike which sailed over the keeper to reduce the deficit with three minutes of injury time remaining.

Any hopes of a dramatic comeback were slim and soon became a distant memory as Stevenage almost immediately broke on the counter attack. Peter Winn finished well to make the scoreline 3-1, a result which haunt Newcastle supporters every year when the media roll out giant killings of previous years.

Stevenage can be very proud of their achievement and once the disappointment dissipates, it would be nice to think Newcastle fans will wish them well. On a day when we once again face up to our own lack of quality in depth, the fact remains that this was just another occasion when one team wanted it more than the other.

Alan Pardew needs to address that lack of spirit which was worringly missing again because it is a tough league programme ahead. And there should be some tough devisions made in view of certain players who need to be moved on. And there’s an urgency to replace old for new, so this month’s transfer window becomes all the more important. But for now it should be about the victors and the hope that they can go on and repeat the feat against another big team, on today’s viewing they deserve that much.


7 Replies to “Stevenage re-write history?”

  • Thanks for the article BBM.

    For what it is worth, here was my response after the game:
    Firstly, huge credit to Stevenage and in particular to their manager. It is obvious why he has been winning trophies at a lower level since 2000 with Farnborough.

    That being said, today should not have happened. The roots are probably back in the shortcomings that we identified on this board at the start of the season. Wolves and Birmingham were held up as role models on hos to survive in the Premier League, and we, or rather Ashley, spent around a third of their level after their promotions.

    Some of the writing was on the wall this week. Pardew has shown his true colours following on from the West Ham win. Admittedly he seemed to recognise after the Liverpool game that he had inherited Hughton’s squad. Since the West Ham match, all he has talked about is “my stewardship”.

    OK, so he sent Donachie to do the homework against Barnet. The first goal was down to a lack of detail in preparation. If simpson had been briefed that the player is so right footed, Simpson would have channelled him down the outside.

    The after match interview said a lot. No Alvin, it was not down to 4 or 5 players not turning up, it was down to you, and here is why.

    Alvin said it himself. We didn’t get width on a narrow pitch. Correct. Why? Barton was played on the left, so was Perch. We have been lacking width with Jonas having to bring it in on his right. With no Enrique, there had to be a starting place for Ferguson, whether that was left back ot left wing it didn’t matter. Why on earth did we make a narrow pitch narrower by having NO left sided players in the back 8?

    OK so players may have been tired after a hectic festive period. Managing the squad was why we got a good win against Chelsea in the League Cup. There were youngsters dying to get in the squad and on the field. Where was the unemployed youth who might have put in the extra effort?

    Alan Smith was great for us in the first half of last season. Some will remember the analysis done of points gained with him in the team this season and the 2nd half of last season. We are grateful for his contribution in the past, but sorry, his days have gone.

    Best may have scored a hat trick against a demotivated and poor West Ham. Best is no Carroll, and will never dominate with the ball delivered as it is to Andy. It may have been right against West Ham, but tactics were not right today.

    There are other things to rant about. Tiote was sent off for a ball winning challenge, whilst de Jong got sod all for a leg breaker full of destructive intent. You could point the finger at Marriner after his negligent display against Arsenal in the League Cup, but standards are so inconsistent. With his card count, Tiote should never have got on the pitch anyway. Vuckic should have had his chance.

    In short, there is one reason for the defeat, specifically the Ashley crew. Insufficient investment in the summer, sacking a manager who made the most of his squad and who was showing signs of learning his lessons.

    The Ashley crew, whether it was Ashley himself or the casino hustler, appointed a failed manager, leaving teams relegated or on the brink. The reason why is all too clear. When things go well, Alvin claims the credit. When things don’t he blames the players, despite his inept tactical performance.

    Pardew, change your attitude, or go somewhere else where you are less unwelcome. Watching a few matches on MOTD does not make you a good manager.

  • Fairly parallel there Rex. I probably don’t share your extreme views on Pardew but there were some questionable decisions today. Ashley is a moron but tonight was the responsibility of the manager and players. Though I accept the reason Pardew is responsible is directly the result of Ashley appointing him. I hope he proves you wrong obviously.

  • A fair reflection but im putting this day into the ‘days to forget’ category.
    Tomorrow is another day and im hoping to wake up to positive derby thoughts.

  • Well done Stevenage, it’s great when the big clubs get passed the little clubs !!! Andy Carroll, no european football, no fa cup football, i bet he don’t hang around that long………..Toite got what was coming to him,,,,,

  • Spot on Rexn and good article BBM. In my opinion it is also down to mis-management. The Stevenage boss clearly had his players pumped for the occasion, ours weren’t. Pardew has a lot to do to win the fans over, all i’m hearing from ex-players like Bent (a mackem ironically)is how good Pardew’s man-management skills are. I am by no means a manager, but common sense tells you not to publicly criticise a player, especially when the performance is down to inept ‘tactics’. I use the word ‘tactics’ very loosely as i have yet to see any real tactics since Partridge took over. For once Alan, just shoulder the blame. You will get more respect, respect has to be earned.

  • If you need some cheering up after that, head to Vital Wolves and read the interview we conducted with your vital editor. It makes for a good read, and in conclusion Newcastle have a lot less to worry about as things stand than many others around them in the Premiership.
    See Prem Survival Battle Part 2.
    Good luck in the derby game against Steve Bruce’s seventy times broken nose.

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