‘Tell me ma, me ma, I won’t be home for tea, we’re going to Wembley’
St James’ Park rose as one as Newcastle United reached their first major final this millennium with a 2-1 win over Southampton. It was a magnificent victory inspired by their very own boyhood hero, Sean Longstaff, as the man born in North Shields scored twice in the opening 21 minutes to send the Magpies on their way.
However, Southampton hit pause on the celebrations when Che Adams thumped in one from range to keep the slow-starting Saints in contention. A late Bruno Guimares red card made it a nervy finish but despite the visitors’ best efforts, they couldn’t turn the tie around and the Toon Army will walk down Wembley Way once again.
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It’s been a painfully long wait to return to Wembley for those in the north-east. They played Spurs twice at the national stadium during their White Hart Lane rebuild, but this will be the first time 40,000 Geordies get to fill the ground for a cup final. Their last final, against Manchester United in the 1999 FA Cup, ended in a 2-0 defeat, and they are now just one win away from winning their first domestic cup since 1955.
The fiercely loyal fans have relished Howe’s revolution this season, and they will make a racket in the capital as they look to watch their team make history. There are two or three generations of Newcastle fans that have never seen their team win a trophy of any notable significance, and all that pain could be washed away in February.
With a DJ set before the match, and new signings Anthony Gordon and Harrison Ashby paraded onto the pitch before the game, St James’ Park was crackling with anticipation. Eddie Howe’s men lived up to that anticipation with a roaring start that saw them score two truly exceptional goals.
First Kieran Trippier combined with Longstaff down the right before the local hero of the night received the ball in the box and fired it into the bottom corner. It was the ideal start for a Geordie crowd desperate to roar their side to success. The English midfielder nearly added a second moments later, before he did make it two in emphatic fashion.
12 passes from back to front and Longstaff is there to double his tally...
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Joe Willock went on a superb run down the left before giving it to Miguel Almiron, who cut the ball back for Longstaff to fire in. The locals were in ecstasy, and looked destined to travel down to the capital on February 26.
However, Che Adams thumped a goal back from the edge of the box after Joe Willock gave the ball away and the visitors tried to get themselves back into the tie. But Newcastle haven’t conceded two goals at home since the 3-3 draw with Manchester City on August 21. Since then, we’ve had three prime ministers and two monarchs, but the Magpies have remained so sound defensively. They’ve only conceded 11 goals in 20 league matches and managed to keep it tight at the back, even with ten men.
Guimares tackles was a shocker, and although he protested his innocence he can have no complaints at the straight red card, which was only shown after a VAR review. But the celebrations at full-time told you everything you needed to know.
Newcastle are a club on a mission. First task, win a trophy. After tonight’s showing, it could be completed at Wembley in February - way ahead of schedule.