Newcastle given stern test as Oxford earn FA Cup replay
Marcus Browne passed up an opportunity to dump Newcastle out of the FA Cup as League One outfit Oxford secured a deserved fourth-round replay with a 0-0 draw at St James’ Park.
The on-loan Middlesbrough midfielder shot straight at Karl Darlow after finding himself one-on-one with the keeper in front of a sell-out crowd of 52,221.
Karl Robinson’s men were far from overawed on an afternoon when the Magpies misfired horribly despite fielding a £81million frontline of Joelinton, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin – although the Brazilian did have two goals correctly ruled out for offside.
Newcastle will have another chance to reach the fifth round for the first time since 2006, but their failure to convert home advantage will now reduce their winter break.
In an untidy start to the game, both sides were guilty of repeatedly surrendering possession tamely, and Newcastle’s plans might have required a rethink had referee Rob Jones not taken a lenient view of skipper Jamaal Lascelles’ ugly 10th-minute lunge at midfielder Shandon Baptiste.
They created their first real chance three minutes later when Saint-Maximin collected Joelinton’s pass and beat defender Rob Dickie on the touchline before pulling the ball back, although DeAndre Yedlin could not make the right contact.
Saint-Maximin drilled a long-range effort straight into keeper Simon Eastwood’s midriff and Joelinton saw his effort deflected wide as the Magpies turned the screw, although their appeals for a penalty after the Brazilian had gone down under Josh Ruffles’ 23rd-minute challenge went unanswered after a VAR check.
Oxford were enjoying their best spell of the half as the clock ticked past the 30-minute mark with Baptiste and Alex Gorrin prominent in midfield, but they were unable to unpick a tight Magpies rearguard.
Saint-Maximin forced a diving 39th-minute save from Eastwood after tricking his way past Gorrin and Mark Sykes, and Sam Long fired over from distance four minutes later as the break arrived with the deadlock intact.
Debutant Nabil Bentaleb signalled Newcastle’s intent within two minutes of a restart with a skidding drive which called Eastwood into action, and Lascelles headed wide from a Matt Ritchie corner when he might have done better.
The Magpies’ intensity increased significantly as Saint-Maximin got the bit between his teeth once again, but the visitors refused to succumb and went close themselves when Baptiste shot wide from distance after winger Tariqe Fosu had cut inside and picked him out with 62 minutes gone.
Geordie hearts were in mouths seconds later when Browne whistled a shot across Darlow’s goal with the tie very much in the balance, and Browne should have put Oxford ahead with 20 minutes remaining when the ball ricocheted into his path with just Darlow to beat, but he could not oblige.
Matty Longstaff almost found the breakthrough seconds after his introduction with an attempt which flew wide of the far post and Joelinton skied high over, but Darlow had to save from substitute Nathan Holland in stoppage time to spare Newcastle’s blushes.