Three goals in nine minutes gave Newcastle a resounding lead against League Two opponents Luton Town in the FA Cup, but nearly threw it away in the second half.
To be clear, the Magpies were simply brilliant in the first half.
They played the ball around smoothly, had drive and penetration and really showed their superior class against valiant but ultimately overwhelmed opposition in Luton Town.
Ayoze Perez pounced on a mistake by Luton goalkeeper Marek Stech to open the scoring at the half hour mark, before quickly adding a second six minutes later, following up when Stech made a save.
Jonjo Shelvey extended the lead three minutes after that, side-footing the ball into the net after a beautifully crafted Newcastle attack to give the home side a three-goal lead.
The Magpies were playing fantastically, helped by their weaker opposition, and looked a threat going forwards.
They had silenced the enormous Luton support – the away side bringing some 7,000 fans to St. James’ Park – and reinvigorated their own 40,000 or so fans in just 45 minutes of quality football.
The atmosphere was back and the stadium was bouncing as the teams went into half time. The team looked brilliant.
Nobody could have predicted how different a team would walk out after the interval.
Within minutes of the restart Newcastle found themselves stunned, when their seemingly lethargic second half approach was pounced on by Luton and Danny Hylton found the back of the net.
It was poor play by the Magpies and gave Luton huge amounts of encouragement.
While the scoreline remained the same by full time, it was now without scares for the majority of a packed-out St. James’ Park.
After a complete shambles by Freddie Woodman, Hylton fired into the net again – sprinting jubilantly to the large travelling support in the top tier – only for it to be ruled out by the assistant for offside.
It was a major let-off for Newcastle, who had come out in the second half with no intensity or desire to be there, seeming to believe their jobs had been done in the first half.
The Newcastle bar was also rattled by Luton by Elliot Lee – the son of former Magpies player Rob Lee, whose other son Olly also played in the match for Luton.
The Magpies won the game in the end, but while the first half was a revelation the second was cause for serious concern – especially given it was a collapse against a side from three leagues below.
Woodman, on his senior Newcastle debut, looked poor in my opinion – we’d been asking for him to be given a chance, but based on that performance, I don’t particularly want him to have another.
He should be sent out on loan, because he’s not a player ready for the Premier League yet. He might not even be ready for the Championship, but only a loan spell would tell us for certain.
Either way, Magpies supporters can be pleased that Rafa Benitez seems to be taking the cup competition somewhat seriously, given our starting lineup, and we can look forward to advancing to the next round of the competition.