Mike Williamson

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Former Torquay United and Wycombe Wanderers defender Mike Williamson's 100th appearance for Newcastle United came in a European quarter-final - but the night ended in disappointment as the Magpies were knocked out by Portuguese giants Benfica.

Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Alan Pardew's side took a 71st minute lead through Papiss Cisse and were just one goal away from reaching the Europa League semi-finals until Eduardo Salvio scored in stoppage time to kill off the tie.

When Williamson was running out at grounds like Plainmoor and Adams Park earlier in his career, he could never have expected to one day be playing on such a big stage and even when he arrived at St. James' Park in January 2009, the last eight of a continental competition seemed a million miles away.

Newcastle were in the Championship then but it's a mark of how far the Club has come that they are now upset not to be in the last four of one of Europe's biggest tournaments. 

Even as Salvio slid home to make it 4-2 to Benfica on aggregate, the home supporters gave their players a standing ovation for the way they had fought on Thursday and during the competition, and Williamson told nufc.co.uk: "It is mixed emotions.

"We can take pride from it but personally I feel extremely disappointed - like it's an opportunity missed.

"It's been a great experience but I'm very sad it ended. The whole squad has pulled together throughout the run. We've played fantastically and ground out some great results and it's really nice to have such a big occasion personally in my career.

"A European quarter-final is fantastic but I feel very, very sad that it hasn't been extended and we couldn't go just that one step further.

"Since the gaffer told me I was starting I've been like a little child. You get so excited for it and it was a great occasion to mark my 100th appearance. It's nice to look back and to have that under your belt but it's onwards and upwards. I want 200 now.

"It's a huge reality check in terms of where I've come from and you dream of occasions like this from watching them on TV.

"Having been a part of it was a fantastic experience and I've loved every minute. I'll take a lot of things going forward in my career.

"I think we'll grow as a group. The players - myself included and a lot of the young ones - will take a lot from it personally and as a team. I think it'll stand us in good stead of the back of last season in the Premier League and coming into a difficult European cup and league campaign.

"We've had a lot of injuries but I think there's been a lot of characters formed in there and I think we're going to be stronger for it. It was a fantastic night but like I say, it was mixed emotions. But we'll take a lot of positives and move on to a huge derby game on Sunday."

Pardew's gameplan almost worked perfectly in the second leg, with his team disciplined and compact in the first hour before taking more risks as the game wore on and going ahead through Cisse. But luck simply wasn't on Newcastle's side.

"We knew we had a chance if we could keep it tight, with the crowd and the players we had to come off the bench, and so it proved with the impact they made," Williamson said. 

"We rode our luck a little bit, which I think you have to on nights like this, but Papiss had two disallowed, Hatem (Ben Arfa) and Shola (Ameobi) had a couple of half-chances and on another night we would have had a couple more goals.

"But it wasn't to be."

Click here to buy a Newcastle United shirt with Williamson's name and number on the back