Newcastle complained when these teams last met, in the fourth round 13 years ago, that Stevenage had exploited their "15 minutes of fame" and tarnished the name of the North-east club. The unfashionable Hertfordshire lot certainly enjoyed their share of the limelight this time, while Newcastle didn't need any help damaging their reputation.
The League Two side played their Premier League opponents off the park at the rebranded Lamex Stadium in Saturday evening's televised clash to avenge their defeat in a replay at St James' Park in 1998. Back then, much of the bickering went on in the build-up with Newcastle concerned about the safety of Stevenage's ground for the tie.
The bad feeling returned as Alan Pardew's vintage, if that's the right word, were reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of substitute Cheik Tioté and a mindless minority in Newcastle's largely excellent travelling support further let their side down. Coins and other missiles were thrown at the stricken Chris Beardsley when he stayed down after the over-worked Fabricio Coloccini's heavy challenge with the score at 2-0.
Events took a more serious turn when the Stevenage full-back Scott Laird was punched to the ground by a fan during what was meant to be a celebratory pitch invasion by the home supporters at the end. The Football Association confirmed they would look into the matter when they meet today and police will also investigate.
"Scott Laird was stood celebrating and a fan just came over and smashed him from the side," said Stevenage's manager Graham Westley. "He went to the ground and it is a shame for the afternoon to end in that way. He is a bit bewildered. He [the fan] gave him a right-hander, just smashed him across the cheek and knocked him to the ground."
However, there was romance as well as rancour, for this was Newcastle's biggest Cup upset since the fabled defeat by Southern League Hereford in 1972, courtesy of Ronnie Radford's thunderbolt. Stevenage have progressed from the Conference, Westley guiding them to promotion last May, but that hardly reduces their status as giant-killers.
Indeed, Westley's team have endured an inconsistent League season, although their fortunes improved in a 4-2 home win against Barnet the previous weekend. Newcastle demolished West Ham with a 5-0 triumph in midweek and made only four changes to that starting line-up. The Stevenage manager had an interesting approach to the tie. He was manager of the Farnborough side that lost 5-1 in the FA Cup at Arsenal seven years ago but decided to go for broke with home advantage.
"The focus before the game was how we would win 5-0," he said. "We established that if we did just 20 per cent of what it would take to win 5-0 we would still win the game. Our game plan was to get to five. Three wasn't five but it was a decent result." Westley is dubbed Mourinho-lite by locals but this was pure Ian Holloway.
The vaunted Toon Army had been in good voice, not least because of Sunderland's embarrassing exit against Notts County earlier in the afternoon. Kevin Keegan was greeted with acclaim as he made his way around the tight pitch to take up his position as a television pundit, while Alan Shearer, derided by home fans for his part in the 1998 affair, was also given vocal Geordie support. Topless, tattooed and tipsy, this was going to be a proper Cup away day. Only Stevenage's players preferred their manager's script. They had the better of the first half and made their superiority count with three goals after the break, Joey Barton's long-range strike little more than a consolation for the visitors.
Five minutes after the resumption, Stacy Long and Laird exchanged passes out on the left before Long cut in and let fly with his right boot, the ball beating Tim Krul with the aid of a deflection off the unfortunate Michael Williamson.
Stevenage poured forward in search of more and got their reward five minutes later when the bearded midfielder Michael Bostwick rifled home from outside the area. Shades of Radford there, no doubt.
How would Newcastle respond? Not well. Tioté's 13-minute involvement came to an abrupt end when he was sent off by Andre Marriner for upending Jon Ashton and, although Barton struck a fine goal in stoppage time, Peter Winn made up for an earlier miss when he lifted the ball over Krul from a fine pass from John Mousinho.
"We couldn't have asked for more," said Winn, who reserved high praise for his manager. "He's better than Mourinho," quipped Winn. "He's the best manager I've ever had. He knows everything – what to say, how to motivate. He gets the best out of you."
Leaving Stevenage to concentrate on Chesterfield next weekend, Newcastle headed back up the A1 licking their wounds. "A few players need to understand what this game is all about," said a shell-shocked Pardew. "We got caught out with the passion and the physical side of Stevenage, who I thought bossed patches of the game with their enthusiasm and endeavour. We have got to match that and we did not do that. I can only say we are sorry for the result and for the performance." Sorry just about summed it up.
Stevenage (4-5-1): Day; Henry (Bridges, 85), Ashton, Roberts, Laird; Wilson, Mousinho, Bostwick, Long, Winn (Odubade, 90); Beardsley. Substitutes not used Bayes, Foster, Griffin, May, Sinclair.
Booked Mousinho, Winn.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Perch; Routledge, Nolan, Smith (Tioté, 58), Barton; Lovenkrands (Airey, 78), Best (Ranger, h-t). Substitutes not used Guthrie, Kadar, Ferguson, Soderberg.
Booked Coloccini, Smith, Best. Sent off Tioté (71).
Possession Stevenage 8 Newcastle 5
Shots on target Stevenage 53% Newcastle 47%
Man of the match Bostwick. Match rating 8/10.
Referee A Marriner (W Midlands). Att 6,644.Reuse content