ALAN Pardew had unfinished business in the FA Cup.
The same could be said for Newcastle United, who last won the competition more than half a century ago.
Pardew’s team-sheet showed he still believed in the cup.
But the travelling fans leaving Broadhall Way on Saturday night were left wondering if Pardew’s view was shared by his players after one of the club’s darkest hours in the cup.
However, it could have been worse – much worse, as Stevenage should have won by a bigger margin, such was their superiority over an unusually nervy and, by Pardew’s admission, a jaded Newcastle side.
Graham Westley’s team, undoubtedly, shaded a goalless first half.
They had the better chances, and United had Tim Krul to thank for saves from Michael Bostwick and Scott Laird.
Newcastle’s defence understandably weren’t taking any changes, and Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson put their feet through every clearance rather than play their way out of trouble on a difficult surface.
The problem was the ball wasn’t sticking up front, with neither Leon Best nor Peter Lovenkrands able to hold the ball up.
United’s central midfield pair of Kevin Nolan and Alan Smith was all but cut out of these exchanges.
Wayne Routledge did see some of the ball on the right, but wasn’t able to make a telling pass, while Joey Barton could only do so much on the left flank.
Pardew’s half-time change – replacing Best with Nile Ranger – didn’t make a difference, and Stevenage, buoyed by their first-half performance, just got better and better.
Newcastle, unfortunately, got worse and worse.
There was no way back after Stacy Long and Bostwick finally broke United’s resolve, the first goal taking a cruel deflection off Williamson in its way past Krul.
Trailing 2-0 with 55 minutes gone, Pardew threw on Cheik Tiote, hoping to bring a bit of composure back to his side.
Yet that decision ultimately backfired, Tiote’s keenness to see Newcastle get back in the game seeing him aggressively slide in on Jon Ashton, though the midfielder did win the ball, and the reaction of his colleagues was telling.
So Pardew’s side weren’t just two goals down, they were also a man down.
And that was that, Joey Barton’s stunning injury-time goal only giving the club’s the briefest of hope, with Peter Winn killing them off deep in injury time.
The post-match pitch invasion was inevitable, though the haymaker which floored a celebrating Scott Laird wasn’t.
But despite their frustration, the 1,273 United fans never got on the backs of their players, and Pardew’s players weren’t booed off at the end.
As the dust settled yesterday, the flying fist of a home fan was still being discussed, the game, thankfully, less so.
As Hereford United’s triumph will always be synonymous with the parkas worn by the hordes who invaded the Edgar Road pitch, this game will be remembered as much for the punch which floored Laird.
Back then, Newcastle went on to beat Manchester United away in their next game – to this date the last time the club has won at Old Trafford.
Unfortunately, this result will never be forgotten outside Tyneside, in much the same way as the Hereford defeat, and Ronnie Radford’s winner, is raked over every January.
However, a win at the Stadium of Light on Sunday will go a long, long way to righting the wrongs of Broadhall Way, a stadium which United fans will be happy if they never visit again.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul 7; Simpson 6, Williamson 4, Coloccini 5, Perch 5; Barton 6, Nolan 5, Smith 5 (Tiote, 58), Routledge 4; Best 5 (Ranger, 46, 5), Lovenkrands 5 (Airey, 78). Subs not used: Soderberg, Kadar, Guthrie, Ferguson.
STEVENAGE: Day, Wilson, Laird, Ashton, Long, Roberts, Winn (Odubade, 90), Beardsley, Mousinho, Bostwick, Henry (Bridges, 85). Subs not used: Bayes, Foster, Grififn, May, Sinclair.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Tim Krul. Had it not been for Krul, the scoreline could have been much, much worse.
HIGHLIGHT: Joey Barton’s late, late goal.
LOWLIGHT: Cheik Tiote’s red card, and suspension, added insult to injury.
Goals: Long 50, Bostwick 55, Barton 90, Winn 90
Bookings: Smith 18, Best 26, Mousinho 32, Winn 47, Coloccini 58
Sent off: Tiote 71
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)
Attendance: 6,644 (1,273 Newcastle)
ANDY Carroll faces a race against time to be fit for Sunday’s derby against Sunderland.
Shola Ameobi and Jonas Gutierrez are also doubts for the Stadium of Light.
However, Jose Enrique is expected to recover from the bout of flu which kept him out of Saturday’s dismal 3-1 FA Cup defeat at Stevenage.
Manager Alan Pardew is desperate to have all three fit for the Wear-Tyne derby, not least 11-goal leading scorer Andy Carroll.
Carroll has been in Dubai nursing the thigh injury which has kept him out of the last three games, but he’ll be back on Tyneside this week ahead of the Sunderland game.
And Pardew, crucially, hasn’t ruled him out of the derby.
“It’s a bit unlucky with Jose – he pulled out on the morning with flu,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“He’ll be fine, and Jonas, Shola and Carroll – who are big players for us – it’s fingers crossed on them.”
Cheik Tiote’s participation is also in doubt after his dismissal at Stevenage, though Newcastle have appealed the red card shown for his tackle on Jon Ashton.
Tiote – who had recovered from a hamstring problem to make the bench – lasted just 13 minutes after coming on when United went 2-0 down early in the second half.
His sliding tackle, which won the ball, wasn’t two-footed, and Pardew is hopeful referee Andre Marriner will look at it again.
“We’re going to appeal it,” said Pardew. “There’s a number of things you can say, but when a player’s genuinely going for the ball, you have to appeal it, and we will.”
If the appeal is unsuccessful, Tiote will also miss the home game against Tottenham Hotspur on January 22, and the visit to Fulham on February 2.
ALAN Pardew claimed his players looked “shot” in Newcastle United’s FA Cup defeat to Stevenage.
And Pardew admitted his jaded team will need all their reserves of energy of they are to overcome Sunderland in Sunday’s derby.
Fans and players alike are still coming to terms with Saturday’s loss at Broadhall Way.
Graham Westley’s side deservedly won 3-1 to book their place in the competition’s fourth round, and Pardew – who had named a strong starting XI – felt fatigue was at the root of his side’s problems.
“We talked about it, but we couldn’t produce what we needed,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“We just couldn’t match the energy Stevenage had. We looked tired as a group.
“The guys who haven’t been playing and the ones who came in looked like their conditioning was a problem, because we haven’t been on the training ground.
“I know these players – they looked shot, to be honest.”
Newcastle had gone into the game high on confidence, having put six goals past West Ham United and Wigan Athletic without reply in back to back Premier League wins.
Sunderland themselves were knocked out of the FA Cup by lower league opposition – Notts County – and Pardew knows they won’t need any extra motivation, having been beaten 5-1 at St James’s Park earlier this season.
“Unfortunately, we ended the week on this – it was a shame after two clean sheets and two great performances in the league,” added Pardew.
“We’re going to have to wear this one, I’m afraid, but it shouldn’t take away from the season these boys are having, because they’re doing terrifically well.
“It might sound silly, but we need some rest this week.
“We need to make sure our energy levels are at 100 per cent, because we know what to expect there.
“They’re going to be fired with revenge after what we did at our place, and we need to be ready for that.”