WHETHER owner Mike Ashley likes it or not, Newcastle United are in the next round of the cup.
And the players actually played like they want to go all the way in the Capital One Cup, which isn’t a “priority” for the club’s hierarchy.
Newcastle didn’t have it all their own way against Gillingham last night, but they did enough to book their place in the third round of the competition.
The goal came from a Gillingham player - former Sunderland man John Egan - who turned in a first-half cross from Gabriel Obertan.
United manager Alan Pardew will have taken heart from the spirit shown by his team, and a number of individual performances, not least those of Obertan and Mehdi Abeid.
Obertan’s pace troubled Gillingham all game, and Abeid controlled the midfield.
Pardew, without injured midfielder Jack Colback, made six changes, but the starting XI, which included Fabricio Coloccini, Siem de Jong, Daryl Janmaat and Tim Krul, was strong.
Teenager Rolando Aarons was also handed his full debut on a damp night at Priestfield, where Newcastle, 2-1 victors in a 1976 League Cup tie, had played just once before in their history.
After a slow start the game came to life in the 11th minute.
Massadio Haidara, starting at left-back ahead of Paul Dummett, reached the byline and pulled the ball back for de Jong, who did well to turn and shoot, but his effort was blocked.
Gillingham raced upfield after taking possession of the ball. But referee Oliver Langford wasn’t fooled by a dive from Cody McDonald, who had been tackled in the area by Coloccini.
Midfielder Abeid dragged a shot wide of Stephen Bywater’s goal in the 14th minute.
Newcastle’s breakthrough came in the 23rd minute. Obertan reached the right byline and his low cross was turned in by Egan. The goal silenced a previously boisterous home crowd, and more importantly drained the confidence out of Peter Taylor’s League One side.
Aarons tested Bywater with a shot after more good work from Haidara down the left.
Gillingham’s Matt Fish tried his luck with a curling shot from outside the area, and Krul was relieved to see the ball fly a yard wide of his right-hand post.
The pace of Obertan, if not the final product, continued to cause problems, but United couldn’t add to their advantage before the interval.
Haidara almost put Newcastle further ahead early in the second half.
The 21-year-old - who found himself in space 30 yards from goal - struck a fierce left-footed shot which crashed against the crossbar.
Pardew replaced Aarons - who had taken a knock - with Remy Cabella in the 60th minute.
Coloccini drove a shot from distance into the arms of Bywater in the 61st minute. Ayoze Perez soon came on in place of de Jong, who had shown a few glimpses of his talent behind lone striker Emmanuel Riviere.
Luke Norris gave Krul a scare in the 70th minute after Cabella gave the ball away.
Gillingham belatedly came at their visitors, but United had enough about them to see the game out.
Gillingham: Bywater, Fish, Legge, Hause, Egan, Davies, Hessenthaler, Dack, Pritchard (Aaron Morris 46), Kedwell (Norris 65), McDonald (German 65). Subs Not Used: McGlashan, Glenn Morris, Dickenson, Hoyte.
Newcastle: Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Haidara, Sissoko, Abeid, Obertan, De Jong (Perez 68), Aarons (Cabella 60), Riviere (Gouffran 86). Subs Not Used: Anita, Ferreyra, Elliot, Dummett. Goals: Egan 25 og.
Ref: Oliver Langford (W Midlands).