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We adapted well - Hanley

Written by Rory Mitchinson

Grant Hanley felt he and his teammates adapted well to a change of system as Newcastle United drew 1-1 at Birmingham City in the Third Round of the FA Cup.

Hanley – making his first start for United since October – joined Jamaal Lascelles and Massadio Haidara in the heart of the backline, with Achraf Lazaar and DeAndre Yedlin deployed as wing-backs.

The Magpies got off to a flyer at St. Andrew’s, as Daryl Murphy – starting alongside Aleksandar Mitrovic up front – netted just six minutes in.

However, Birmingham restored parity courtesy of Lukas Jutkiewicz before the break, with chances at a premium in a low-key second period.

Nevertheless, Hanley was encouraged by the Magpies’ showing in the Second City – Rafa Benitez’s side having been forced into a further adjustment following an early injury to Mitrovic.

“The system was different – it’s not something we’ve really done before – but we felt comfortable,” the Scot told nufc.co.uk. “Especially during stages in the first half, we were on top – I don’t know how many balls flew along their six-yard box but we could have put the game to bed early doors.

“Later on in the game, we went back to a 4-4-2, and it’s all about adapting, and using your brain. The manager is very thorough in the way he wants us to play.

“We’re still in the competition, and we still have a chance to move forward. It was going to be difficult – there were a lot of changes, and there were a number of lads who haven’t played a lot of football trying to go out there and impress. It’s still positive. And hopefully at home, we can get a win and move on.”

Since clocking up 90 minutes in their 6-0 EFL Cup rout of Preston North End, Hanley has been restricted to just a single substitute appearance for Newcastle.

The 25-year-old was content with his display at St. Andrew’s, however, a slight shin injury now firmly behind him.

“I’ve not played a lot, I was injured for a while, so the main thing was to get through without dropping any clangers, and I managed to do that,” he said. “It just takes one second to score a goal, so as a centre-half, you have to make sure you’re on your toes. When you haven’t played a lot of football, it’s important to stay focussed and concentrate.

“It was frustrating being in the treatment room every day. I was itching to get back involved with the lads. There’s no better feeling than being around the squad, especially when you’re winning.

“The team have done so well this year, and it’s a great place to be and a great place to come in every day. I’m happy to get involved again.”

Newcastle and Birmingham will lock horns for a second time a week on Wednesday, a third fixture in the space of eight days for United.

Hanley, however, believes they have the strength in depth to cope with an increasingly demanding schedule, and is hopeful of ending the Magpies’ long wait for a win in the competition.

“The advantage we have is that we have a big squad. When you’ve got cup games, the manager makes changes and the lads who haven’t been playing have a point to prove, so it’s good for everybody all round,” he said.

“We feel we have a strong squad – strong enough to challenge in any competition we play in. Cup games are big for us – it’s a chance to impress and compete for a place in the next stage of a competition.”

“The system was different – it’s not something we’ve really done before – but we felt comfortable. Especially during stages in the first half, we were on top – I don’t know how many balls flew along their six-yard box but we could have put the game to bed early doors."

Grant Hanley

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