For Steve McClaren a first victory as head coach of Newcastle United. For the supporters a first opportunity to watch Florian Thauvin at St James’ Park. There was more celebration for the latter on Tuesday night, though the significance of the former should not be understated. Newcastle play Arsenal on Saturday and this was a game McClaren needed to win.
In times gone by at St James’ Park, they did not care for cups, shamefully writing off the glamour and glory of knockout football. The suggestion came from the owner, Mike Ashley, that the policy has changed, on the final game of last season’s desperate campaign, when he finally stuck his head above the parapet.
Judgement day does not come in a comprehensive victory over Northampton – Newcastle did actually reach the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup last season, losing to Tottenham. That will come when Newcastle have significantly altered an appalling record of progressing once beyond the fourth round of either domestic cup competition in the 16 previous attempts under Ashley.
But at least there was a bit more cohesion on Tuesday than in many of those early exits. Certainly, it was a result for McClaren to feel pleased with and, in Thauvin, there was a touch of quality. He scored once and the other three goals, finished by Siem de Jong, Daryl Janmaat and Mike Willamson, were all his creation.
Newcastle have been a side in dire need of flair for some time. Thauvin gave a suggestion he may fill that void.
It had looked like being an easy night for Newcastle, when, after just eight minutes, they had raced into a two-goal lead.
Thauvin was making his full debut in English football, having come on as a substitute at Old Trafford on Saturday. It was not quite the same stage, but there was no denying the quality of the finish, when, with three minutes gone, he cleverly and acrobatically directed Massadio Haidara’s cross from the left past Ryan Clarke with the outside of his left boot.
Five minutes later, Thauvin’s free-kick from the left found Siem de Jong, and it appeared his glancing header flew into the bottom corner of the Northampton goal.
Chris Wilder’s side could have been forgiven for baulking at the size of their challenge, but within a minute they had a goal and a lifeline.
Adam Yates’ free-kick found the head of Rod McDonald and it struck the flailing arm of Cheick Tioté. Marc Richards smashed the resulting penalty past Karl Darlow.
Newcastle certainly created enough chances to have seen off Northampton before Janmaat added a third, just before the hour mark.
Ayoze Perez, once more impressive, could have bagged two goals and De Jong similarly could have added a further couple to his total for the evening. But take nothing away from the bravery of Northampton, McDonald almost equalised with a well-worked free-kick.
Once the third came, however, when Thauvin fed the overlapping Janmaat, Northampton were done. That was in the 57th minute. Six minutes later Mike Williamson headed in a fourth, once more created by the French forward Thauvin, from another free-kick. Thauvin left the field to a standing ovation.Reuse content