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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Newcastle United’s wretched record in the FA Cup continued as 40-year-old Aaron Wilbraham gave minnows Rochdale a 1-1 draw in Saturday's third round clash.
Magpies manager Steve Bruce had stated his ambition before the match not to lose to “bloody Rochdale” as he eyed a sustained Cup run for a club that hasn’t won the competition since 1955 and last reached the final in 1999.
But Newcastle’s FA Cup form is so bad that they have not gone beyond the fourth round for 13 years.
A succession of Newcastle managers have been forced to send out weakened teams in cup competitions – under order to prioritise Premier League survival by the club – much to the frustration of supporters.
And once again they endured embarrassment as League One Rochdale recovered from Miguel Almiron’s opener to earn a replay at St James’ Park later in January thanks to a late leveller from old stager Wilbraham.
“We knew we weren’t at our best in the first half but we got round the dressing room at half-time and we luckily had the chances in the second half,” said Wilbraham, playing the 674th match of his journeyman career.
“I’m just happy to be involved. The second half went so quick. I could’ve played for another hour! It was a great feeling to score the goal.
“It will be a great experience for the lads to go up to St James’ Park [for the replay]. I went to Newcastle with Bristol City and had a good game so I’ll be looking to do the same again.”
Despite dealing with a raft of injuries, Bruce, a three-time FA Cup winner with Manchester United, picked six players who started Wednesday’s Premier League loss to Leicester.
And Newcastle should have had the tie sewn up by half-time after dominating the opening 45 minutes.
Winger Christian Atsu ran Rochdale so ragged that manager Brian Barry-Murphy made his first substitution on the half-hour, introducing Luke Matheson in place of the outclassed Tyler Magloire at the back.
"I think we were in awe of them at the start and we were surprised with the speed and intensity of Newcastle, and it was all about getting to half-time with as little damage as possible," Barry-Murphy said.
Magloire had been beaten in the sixth minute when Atsu delivered a dangerous cross which was well cleared by Dale defender Eoghan O’Connell.
Four minutes later, another cross found Joelinton, whose ailing confidence was once again evident in the way he prodded a good chance tamely over the bar.
A Matty Longstaff effort – again set up by Atsu – was deflected wide before Paraguayan midfielder Almiron pounced in the 18th minute, finishing off a neat one-two with the Ghanaian before screwing his rising shot past Robert Sanchez.
It was only Almiron’s second Newcastle goal since his January move from Atlanta United after he broke his duck against Crystal Palace on December 21.
Joelinton had an even better chance in the 22nd minute but fired a low shot wide when he should have scored.
Sanchez saved Rochdale twice in the final minutes of the first half, first blocking a shot from Yoshinori Muto then superbly tipping away a low effort from Joelinton. Those misses would come back to haunt Bruce’s side.
In need of a lift, Rochdale, sitting 18th in League One, opted for experience over the promise of youth at half-time when they sent on Wilbraham to replace 16-year-old Kwadwo Baah.
The change revived Rochdale and Martin Dubravka had to make a good save to deny Oliver Rathbone before Ian Henderson hit the woodwork from close-range.
Newcastle were looking increasingly nervous and Rochdale deservedly equalised in the 79th minute when Matheson found Wilbraham in the box and the veteran striker took one touch before drilling past Dubravka. And Rochdale almost grabbed a winner when Rathbone found space in the box but drifted a slow shot wide of target.
Bruce must now prepare his increasingly depleted squad for a replay, with Almiron (groin) and Yoshinori Muto (hip) now added to the injury list.
“Our frailties are pretty obvious,” he said. “We don’t score enough goals and with the chances we’ve created today we’ve got to be taking them and the tie should have been put to bed.
“We were excellent in the first half but the losses of Muto and Almiron gave us another thing to think about. [But] we’re in the hat and we’ve got a replay, and some might need a game after coming back from injury.”
Newcastle’s inability up front was underlined by another low-confidence display from Joelinton, but Bruce insisted he retains belief in the Brazilian despite looking for reinforcements in the transfer window.
“He [Joelinton] has had a difficult time but ... until two weeks ago Almiron hadn’t scored but now he’s scored two in fairly quick succession, so he’s just got to stick at it.”
Updated: January 4, 2020 08:31 PM
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