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[Archived] News Article -> 2011/12 FA Cup Match Report: Newcastle United 2 Rovers 1

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FA Cup 3rd Round

Newcastle United(0) 2 – 1 (1)Blackburn Rovers

Ben Arfa 70, Gutierrez 90 + 5 Goodwillie 35

Referee: K. Friend Attendance: 30,876

Although Jonas Gutierrez scored some five minutes into injury time, with what was virtually the last kick of the match, let there be no doubt that justice was done in the end. In truth the Rovers should have been dead and buried long before this last-gasp goal. The home side squandered numerous chances to cement their place in the next round and seemed intent on taking the game to a replay. However, two pieces of brilliance by Ben Arfa and Gutierrez ensured that the team which showed the greatest invention, creativity and, above all, desire won through in the end.

The 350 or so hardy souls from Blackburn who travelled to Newcastle were greeted with the news that Chris Samba was out alongside David "Junior" Hoilett, Paul Robinson and David Dunn, while Jason Lowe, Mauro Formica and Yakubu were amongst the substitutes. However, Martin Olsson returned after his injury problems, which enabled Adam Henley to switch to his preferred position of right-back.

Although without Demba Ba and Cheik Tiote, Newcastle got off to an impressive start and had the Rovers back-peddling as Gabriel Obertan and Gutierrez threatened to run riot down both flanks. Newcastle's pass-and-move style is attractive on the eye and very effective, but fortunately the final ball wasn't as accurate as it might have been and when the home side did get into good shooting positions, their efforts were wayward to say the least.

Indeed, within the first minute Mark Bunn was called into action and had to make an acrobatic save to keep out an effort from Leon Best and the Rovers' 'keeper then did well to keep out an effort from Gutierrez, while Mike Williamson saw an ambitious effort curl over the bar.

Once again, the Rovers' defence looked extremely porous, particularly down the wings, but in fairness they were not helped by a midfield which was exceptionally careless in possession. The game was barely ten minutes old when Newcastle might well have opened the scoring after Morten Gamst Pedersen gifted possession to the home side and Ben Arfa ran at a retreating back-line before playing in Yohan Cabaye. Fortunately, for Pedersen, Cabaye's effort went over the bar when he really ought to have done better.

The opening twenty minutes saw little of the Rovers as an attacking force. Once again, they were happy to sit with a midfield five in front of the back four and rely on a solitary striker — on this occasion it was David Goodwillie rather than Yakubu.

The Rovers' first meaningful attack came from Olsson, who fed Rochina, and the former Barcelona youth player fired in a decent shot which Tim Krul did well to cover. Buoyed by this effort the young Spaniard tried his luck from distance, but his effort flew well wide of the goal.

The Rovers had a narrow escape just after the half-hour mark when Pedersen, who was struggling in midfield, lost possession and the ball was worked to Gutierrez, who took aim and then curled his shot just inches wide of the far post.

Newcastle had enjoyed the majority of the play up to this point and it was completely against the run of play that the Rovers took the lead. Once again, the goal came from a set-piece with Pedersen's corner being met by the head of Grant Hanley. Krul did brilliantly to keep it out, but the ball hit Goodwillie and the Scotland striker managed to force it over the line from close range.

The goal seemed to shake the confidence of the home side and although they enjoyed the greater possession for the remainder of the half, they failed to make many clear-cut chances. Indeed, some of their approach play began to become sloppy and, like the Rovers, they started to give the ball away rather too cheaply.

The second half opened in similar fashion. Indeed, the home crowd started to become anxious as Newcastle continually wasted good positions with a careless final ball. Home nerves weren't helped when a Ben Arfa ball across the face of the goal landed at the feet of Best but his attempt to score was blocked brilliantly by Olsson. Fortunately, a linesman's flag spared Best's blushes but did little to soothe an increasingly anxious crowd.

Both managers made changes as Alan Pardew attempted to inject more threat into his side, while Steve Kean withdrew the limping Ruben Rochina with Formica replacing him. Rochina is a lad with skill, but he seems ill-equipped for the rough and tumble of English football and one dreads to think how he will cope with the Championship.

It was the introduction of Ryan Taylor, after 59 minutes, that seemed to change the game. Not that the defender offered a serious threat in open play, but his delivery from free-kicks and corner-kicks proved a constant threat, particularly as Shola Ameobi, who had replaced Obertan, offered a greater threat in front of goal.

However, when the equaliser came, it was not from a cross, which had seemed the most likely route for Newcastle. Instead, Hatem Ben Arfa produced a moment of brilliance which was worth the admission money on its own. Picking up the ball on the left of the Rovers defence, he dribbled his way into the area past a series of static defenders, at least four in number, before firing the ball into the roof of the net. It was a wonderful piece of skill and lifted the home crowd, who had been strangely subdued.

The Rovers, who had hardly featured as an attacking force since half-time — indeed, they weren't much of a threat before it — now started to defend deeper as they looked to take the game to a replay. Jason Lowe came on to play at left-back in place of the tiring Olsson, while Jordan Slew came on to provide fresh legs in place of Goodwillie.

By this time, however, Newcastle were totally dominant and it simply became a question of whether the Rovers could hang on. Newcastle really ought to have had the game won long before the end and the Rovers were fortunate when a header flashed off the crossbar from another Taylor cross. Bunn was also called into action to make a save with his legs to keep out an effort from Coloccini as the Rovers' defending became increasingly desperate.

With the game deep into injury time the Rovers managed to snatch defeat right at the last and, once again, it was self-inflicted. A loose ball in midfield fell between Simon Vukcevic and Gutierrez. It wasn't even a fifty–fifty with the Rovers man the clear favourite to win the ball. However, for some reason the winger opted to pull out of the tackle and Gutierrez needed no second invitation to nip past him and race towards the Rovers penalty area. The left-winger then played a one–two with Best in the area before lifting the ball over the advancing Bunn and into the back of the net. Why Vukcevic opted to pull out of the tackle only he will know, but ultimately it cost the Rovers the game — not that they deserved to take anything from it after another woeful performance.

Once again, Mark Bunn did all that could be expected of him in goal and, but for his first-minute heroics, one feels that the Rovers might well have suffered a more convincing defeat.

Adam Henley and Martin Olsson had their work cut out at full-back as Newcastle rely heavily on wing play to create their openings. Gutierrez was a constant thorn in the side, but Olsson gradually got the better of Obertan. Young Henley did as well as could be expected considering that he was up against such a talented individual as Gutierrez.

In the centre of defence, Grant Hanley had another fine game while Gael Givet eased himself back into the action after his recent lay-off.

In midfield the Rovers looked second best in every department. Vukcevic did little all afternoon and must take full responsibility for the winning goal. His decision to pull out of a tackle that he was favourite to win proved costly. On the opposite flank Morten Gamst Pedersen had a disappointing afternoon and gave the ball away far too often. Steven Nzonzi, who I really rate, had a very poor game and at times, particularly in the second half, looked totally disinterested. According to the team sheet, Radosav Petrovic was on the field. Nothing more can be said of his contribution.

Ruben Rochina tried to be the link between midfield and attack but really did very little in either area. In the first half he embarked on one or two runs that came to nothing, while the second half saw him fade from the picture as he was put on his backside by some strong, but perfectly fair, tackling from the home side. If Rochina is to make the most of his skill in this country, he is going to have to learn to cope with the physical aspects of the game. When he limped off, he was replaced by Mauro Formica, but once again the Argentinean made little impression despite his willingness to run around.

David Goodwillie did surprisingly well at holding the ball up and, of course, was on the spot to tuck away the goal. However, he lacks the physical presence of Yakubu and his decision-making is not the best. Once again, there was an attempt at trying to score from virtually the halfway line, which was embarrassing to say the least.

Jason Lowe made a brief appearance at left-back and all one can say is that he is not a right-back and even less of a left-back. At some point surely the lad deserves to be given his chance in the centre of the midfield. Jordan Slew got around 15 minutes to once again show that the lad is not ready for this level of football. Hopefully he can be loaned out to get some experience of regular first-team football.

So the season is now all about Premier League survival with no distractions from Cup competitions. Only time will tell if this is a good thing or not, but the feeling of the fans I spoke to today was that relegation is a certainty unless Mrs Desai pulls her finger out and puts some money into the club. Sadly, the players that Kean has signed thus far do not look anywhere near the calibre needed to maintain Premier League football at Ewood Park.


Newcastle United

Tim Krul; Danny Simpson (Ryan Taylor 59), Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon; Gabriel Obertan (Shola Ameobi 56), Mehdi Abeid (Dan Gosling 87), Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez; Hatem Ben Arfa, Leon Best

Subs not used: Rob Elliot (gk), James Perch, Haris Vuckic, Sammy Ameobi

Manager: Alan Pardew

Blackburn Rovers

Mark Bunn; Adam Henley, Grant Hanley, Gael Givet, Martin Olsson (Jason Lowe 76); Simon Vukcevic, Radosav Petrovic, Steven Nzonzi, Morten Gamst Pedersen; Ruben Rochina (Mauro Formica 56); David Goodwillie (Jordan Slew 81)

Subs not used: Jake Kean (gk), Josh Morris, Nick Blackman, Yakubu

Manager: Steve Kean


Newcastle United – Mike Williamson, Jonas Gutierrez

Blackburn Rovers – Mark Bunn

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