Nick Pope, Dan Burn, and Sean Longstaff were the only ones to remain on the side for the visit of Crystal Palace, as Eddie Howe rung the changes.
Starts for Allan Saint-Maximin, Elliot Anderson, and Jonjo Shelvey did give supporters some excitement before kick-off. That excitement was short-lived in what was a subdued St James’ Park. The performance of both sides matched the atmosphere—flat.
Newcastle struggled to find any sort of rhythm in the first half, the returning Allan Saint-Maximin delivering perhaps his poorest display in a Newcastle shirt. Newcastle’s number 10 didn’t drive at the Palace defense and failed to make any meaningful runs to create space. Saint-Maximin has just returned from injury, which could be why he was playing very cautiously.
Though Newcastle desperately needed the spark that the Frenchman usually creates, the Magpies struggled for ideas.
30 minutes had elapsed by the time Anderson turned superbly before forcing Sam Johnstone into his first save.
Johnstone was then sent scrambling anxiously back towards his line by Shelvey’s quickly-taken 33rd-minute free-kick and was relieved to see the ball drop just wide. Shelvey’s nervous look to the bench immediately after summed up the first half.
Longstaff cut a frustrated figure after making a number of runs in behind, and not once being found by a teammate. It was certainly one of those nights.
Eyebrows were raised when no changes were made at half-time, given just how tedious the opening 45 minutes had been. Dan Burn glanced Matt Targett’s inswinging 63rd-minute corner past the far post as Howe prepared a triple substitution and the cavalry duly arrived three minutes later when Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman, and Bruno replaced Javier Manquillo, Burn, and Longstaff. They were soon to be followed by the man of the moment, Miguel Almiron.
Almiron got his chance with nine minutes remaining when he was played through by Trippier, but Johnstone denied him an eighth goal in as many games to take the tie to penalties.
Wood, Trippier, and Joelinton were successful from the spot while Botman’s lackadaisical penalty was saved. Bruno had the chance to put the Magpies through, the Brazilian produced a bizarre run-up before firing over the bar.
Pope was Newcastle’s hero in the end, saving three penalties to guide Newcastle to the fourth round.
A painful watch from the stands, indeed. But a win is a win, and most importantly Newcastle are still in the competition.