Date: 18th January 2017 at 9:42pm
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NEWCASTLE 3 BLUES 1

So the FA Cup dream may be over once again but no real damage has been done. It’s a competition that Birmingham City have never won and a third round replay was always seen as a burden. Even Rafael Benitez said so, not in so many words.

Taking one look at the team sheet would tell you where the FA Cup stands in the order of priorities for both clubs. Newcastle obviously boast more strength in depth than Blues and made a better fist of the game.

In effect, the tie was over after 34 minutes. A Matt Ritchie penalty and an impressive Yoan Gouffran finish gave Gianfranco Zola’s men a mountain to climb. And to be fair to them, they started climbing it admirably.

David Cotterill gave his team a lifeline and numerous other decent chances were squandered. The inevitable push for the equaliser led to Newcastle’s third, and Ritchie’s second, late on

It may be another defeat, and seven games without a win for Zola, but after giving a good account of themselves in the second half – massively when compared to the capitulation at the same ground in December – Blues can now concentrate solely on the Championship.

Although no one will be spitting their dummy out over an under strength Blues team crashing out of the cup, Zola does desperately need that elusive first win sooner rather than later. Without it, the pressure will continue to mount.  Losing has to be nipped in the bud before it becomes a habit.

Tonight, Blues were just a fog on the Tyne. Ewood Park on Saturday is where the real expectation lies.

 
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