The contrast told you everything; on Level 7 at St James’ Park, within touching distance of the gods, 5,000 delirious Sheffield Wednesday supporters roared their backing for the club’s victorious reserves.
In the middle of the actual field, Steve McClaren was trying to coerce his players to go back into the centre circle. Some, like Tim Krul, took a bit of persuading. Krul has been at Newcastle since 2006. He knew what was coming.
The bedraggled Newcastle players raised their half-hearted hands and their supporters raised their jeers.
Another third-round exit, the 10th in domestic competition during Mike Ashley’s reign. McClaren has his own mountain to climb now, but it is a club that has drifted for far longer than the eight games the former England manager has taken charge for.
Five defeats, two draws and one win was not how it was supposed to start. He lost his first four games at Middlesbrough and recovered to win the League Cup, but winning games, let along trophies, seems a long way off.
The Sheffield Wednesday manager, Carlos Carvalhal, took the gamble of dropping 10 players from the team which played Fulham at the weekend, and he got away with it.
He got away it because his reserves fought for their lives, and because Newcastle are more creative in the wardrobe (Florian Thauvin arriving again in a tuxedo) than they are on the pitch.
The winning goal came 14 minutes from time, from the excellent Lewis McGugan, but it had been coming, such was their superiority.
That Newcastle could muster only one chance of note in the opening 45 minutes against Wednesday’s reserves said everything. There were jeers when Chris Kavanagh blew his whistle at half-time, with the game goalless.
A minute earlier, the cries from the Gallowgate End had been, “attack, attack attack attack”. There was good reason for the restless reaction from the home support. It was Wednesday who were the more dangerous side.
Once Newcastle had clipped the outside of the far post of Joe Wildsmith’s goal through Moussa Sissoko, in the 10th minute, when Gabriel Obertan had put him through, it was the visitors who looked most likely to score.
That was hardly surprising. Newcastle did not even have a fit centre-forward, pushing Siem de Jong forward from his No 10 role. Suspension had robbed them of Aleksandar Mitrovic and injury of Papiss Cissé. Surely they should have more than two centre-forwards on their books?
In the 35th minute, a left-wing corner for Wednesday reached Tom Lees and he headed into the Newcastle six-yard area with Mike Williamson forced to head clear. There were no such scares in the Wednesday penalty area. Wildsmith will have had few such quiet evenings. By the 64th minute, Wednesday’s confidence was such that they should have taken the lead.
Marco Matias cleverly back heeled to Modou Sougou and opened up the Newcastle defence. Krul stood up well to the angled drive from the forward and then watched in relief as the second attempt from the same player flew across the face of his goal.
A goal for the visitors was not long away, however, and it came when the ball fell to McGugan 20 yards from goal. He drilled a shot into the bottom corner of Krul’s goal.
Three minutes later the tie should have been finished. First Lucas Joao powered a header off Krul’s crossbar and then Sergio Bus struck woodwork from close range.
It did not matter. Newcastle’s first shot on target did not come until the 85th minute. It was weak, from a weak team. Wednesday’s victory was thoroughly deserved.
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