So what did we learn about Newcastle United on Saturday?

Newcastle United v Oxford United

Well, this was a funny old game.

The optimism of the previous week or two was dimmed in typical NUFC style, plus the whispers of another takeover made it an interesting day of sorts, but more of that later.

Being a cup game, my normal match going mates opted to boycott, in a nutshell they can’t be bothered with the rigmarole of ordering tickets online so they end up going shopping with the missus.

So to the game.

I was not in my normal seat so had the benefit of seeing things from a different angle in the East Stand which bizarrely, fogeys like me still refer to as the ‘new’ stand, bizarre because it was constructed in 1973. Newcastle lined up with what I thought was quite a strong side, while the first thing I noticed about Oxford was the physical size of them, they looked lean and mean and well up for it.

They had bought plenty of fans who were strangely quiet for most of the time, I have seen other reports saying they outshouted the home fans so maybe it is just the odd acoustics of SJP, so apart from the odd chants of Yellow I hardly heard them.

The match kicked off and we were on the front foot but struggled to create anything of note, one twisting run from a strangely subdued ASM resulted in a shot from distance that was comfortably saved, but apart from that I don’t remember anything of note, a couple of scrambles maybe spring to mind but nothing of any note at all.

I thought Lascelles was a little fortunate not to receive a red for an over enthusiastic tackle but this was balanced out by the failure of the Ref and VAR to give us what looked like a nailed on penalty, I have not seen the repay of either incident. Oxford did come close with a screamer from angle of the penalty box, that from where I was sitting looked in all the way.

Second half came and to be fair Oxford grew into the game and Karl Darlow was forced into making a couple of good if comfortable saves.

Surprisingly, Joelinton then showed what he can and can’t do as twice he finished with expert aplomb only to be flagged offside both times, the first time his frustration at ASM was visible for all to see for not passing earlier, then he did what he did best, blazing over a simple chance from about eight yards out when it looked easier to score.

Oxford then nearly won it at the death as someone ran from deep and struck a powerful shot that Karl Darlow managed to push away.

So what do we learn?

Well obviously the potential for this basket case of a football club is still there as over 52,000 attended, some for the very first time. Some will want to come back, some will be scarred forever. One of my concerns with the boycotting is the fact we may lose a generation of fans to other clubs. When I grew up we only had football, in this digital world there are many things that can ignite a child’s mind away from football.

Back to the match, I thought the debuting Bentaleb had a decent game, possibly trying too hard to impress at times but he is comfortable on the ball, after that it is hard to pick out anything of real note, I did however think Sean Longstaff was poor, that said, since his injury last season he has not been the same player and for me the only way is perseverance because there is no doubt he is an outstanding talent. Brother Matty came on and played without fear and almost won it for us with a decent curling effort.

Yedlin was decent playing as a wing-back as his pace always causes problems but the issue of the crossing into the box does need addressing …..or maybe it won’t ever improve. Miggy was also threatening and impressive but thwarted by the ‘take one for the team’ attitude of the Oxford defence.

The upshot is, we are in the draw for the 5th round and if we get lucky with a decent home draw who know? Oxford will be thinking exactly the same however. I mentioned earlier they looked a physical side but they only used it when needed, the replay will be no cake walk but a one I can look forward to, having not been to their new stadium.

So takeover talk (again), sceptics and cynics rightly will treat it with a pinch of salt, but as more rumours emerge. there does seem to be some substance. Project Zebra did make me giggle somewhat, why not just shout it from the rooftops and call it project Magpie, oh yes, Ashley likes secrecy!

The background of some of the names involved is also somewhat questionable, but I don’t know enough about other countries’ regimes or politics to have an opinion of substance, I can however have an opinion on Mike Ashley…..it’s time to go Mike!

Other names mentioned are interesting, including the Reuben brothers who are not strangers to this city but again it is all pie in the sky until something happens, I notice some reports saying the deal is 90% done……but no doubt in typical NUFC style “we couldn’t get it over the line”…

This weekend also corresponded with my 56th birthday, that is 50 years of attending and winning nothing, but have enjoyed and endured in equal measures. People ask me why I carry on? Maybe it is habit, maybe it is blind ignorance, who knows? I am no super fan as I don’t go away as often as I used to, nor do I have the 500 or so loyalty points that some have, but in those 50 years I have only missed a handful of home games.

Is Mike Ashley the worst owner we have ever had? Despite me often saying it was worse in the late 70s etc. under Westwood he probably is, I don’t think he wanted to be, I just think NUFC is too big for him.

Ashley came and tried to get us all onside, buying the Bigg Market a drink, sacking Allardyce, bringing back Keegan, Shearer etc., and even supping with the fans on the terraces, but it soured all too quickly and the toys flew out the pram, it really is time for him to do the decent thing and pack up and go.

Have a great week all.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 0 Oxford 0 – Saturday 25 January 3pm

Possession was Oxford 38%, Newcastle 62%

Total shots were Oxford 8 Newcastle 15

Shots on target were Oxford 2, Newcastle 4

Corners were Oxford 4, Newcastle 7

Crowd: 52,221 (incl approx 3,800 Oxford)

Referee: Robert Jones

Newcastle team v Oxford:

Darlow, Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Clark, Ritchie, Sean Longstaff (Hayden 87), Bentaleb (Atsu 80), Almiron, Saint-Maximin (Matty Longstaff 70), Joelinton

Unused Subs

Elliot, Fernandez, Sorensen, Allan

(Nabil Bentaleb reflects on his debut in the mess that was Newcastle 0 Oxford 0 – Read HERE)

(You couldn’t make it up…Embarrassing Steve Bruce complains about FA Cup fourth replay – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 0 Oxford 0 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s dismal draw – Read HERE)

(Newcastle United reach FA Cup Fifth Round…Draw! Dismal Newcastle 0 Oxford 0 – Read HERE)

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