Newcastle United 0 Oxford United 0
- Robert Jones
Newcastle United face another FA Cup replay against another League One side after failing to find a way past Oxford United at St. James’ Park.
As would have been expected, Steve Bruce’s side enjoyed more possession than they’ve been used to of late and had twice as many efforts as the visitors, but they lacked a cutting edge in the final third of the pitch throughout.
As a result, they will have to see off the U’s on their own turf – where they were knocked out of the competition at the same stage in 2016/17 – if they are to finally progress to the Fifth Round for the first time since 2006.
The League One side got off to the more enterprising start at St. James’ with the Magpies slow to get going. Full back Josh Ruffels sent a low cross across the face of goal after just two minutes, while a searching free kick from Marcus Browne dropped into a dangerous spot inside the hosts’ 18-yard box but no U’s player was there to attack it.
United’s first real sight of goal didn’t come until the midpoint of the first half, when lone frontman Joelinton saw a left-footed strike deflect wide off the body of Oxford’s Rob Dickie. Two minutes later, Bruce’s charges nearly took the lead through Jamaal Lascelles, who headed high of the target from a decent position after meeting Sean Longstaff’s cross. Just prior to that chance, Joelinton had taken a tumble inside the visitors’ penalty area, but video assistant referee Lee Mason determined that the Brazilian had simply lost his footing.
After another lull from a Newcastle perspective, Allan Saint-Maximin came close to breaking the deadlock out of nothing shortly before the break, skipping past two Oxford defenders before bringing a smart parry out of goalkeeper Simon Eastwood. A half-time advantage would have flattered either side, though, after a largely uninspiring opening 45 minutes.
The Magpies looked to move up a gear as the second half got underway. Debutant Nabil Bentaleb brought Eastwood into action with a low shot from range, while Saint-Maximin saw a strike from a tight angle blocked before it could reach the Oxford ‘keeper. A couple of corners also came and went, skipper Lascelles twice the recipient and twice causing a moment of panic inside the visitors’ area.
After surviving that little flurry, the U’s regrouped and twice came close to making a shock breakthrough. On both occasions, it was Browne who nearly did the damage. The Middlesbrough loanee saw a rising left-footed strike whistle just past the upright following an Oxford corner, then – after exactly 70 minutes – he found himself one on one with Karl Darlow despite taking a heavy touch from Alex Gorrin’s pass, but failed to beat the Newcastle stopper with a low shot.
Despite the two-division gap between the two sides, the remainder of the game was surprisingly end to end. Miguel Almirón saw a good chance go begging with a quarter of an hour to play, acrobatically volleying over the top after connecting with Joelinton’s knockdown. The frontman himself blazed over with a first-time strike five minutes from time, just moments after Tariqe Fosu had nearly got in behind the United backline, Fabian Schär having to make an important challenge.
Indeed, it was Oxford who nearly won it at the very end, with substitute Nathan Holland forcing Darlow into a smart stop after finding room to shoot 18 yards out.