Newcastle United have been knocked out of the FA Cup in a shock defeat to League One side Sheffield Wednesday this evening at Hillsborough, and Eddie Howe will surely be regretting his decision to make so many changes for the clash.
The Magpies manager made eight changes to the starting XI which drew with Arsenal in an effort to give fringe players the opportunity to prove their worth and allow first-teamers a rest ahead of the Carabao Cup quarter-final clash against Leicester City on Tuesday.
Despite having 75% possession of the ball, more shots on goal (22 v 9), more big chances created (4 v 3), more shots inside the box (15 v 6) and more dribbles completed (63% v 13%) than the home side, Newcastle were unable to convert their overwhelming amount of chances, which ultimately cost them their place in the competition.
The first half was relatively uneventful, with Newcastle dominating the ball, and although both teams were creating chances comfortably to threaten their opponents, it remained scoreless at the interval.
In the second half, the drama unfolded as Wednesday’s striker Josh Windass finally broke the stalemate to give his team the lead in the 52nd minute, and the chaos that he caused Newcastle didn’t end there as he doubled the lead with another goal just 13 minutes later.
Bruno Guimaraes responded with a goal for Newcastle in the 69th minute but chance after chance was squandered and, after a prolonged period of injury time, Howe’s side fell to just their second defeat of the season.
One player who was brought onto the pitch to strengthen the attacking threat was striker Chris Wood, replacing a freshly-returned Alexander Isak in front of goal, and it’s safe to say that it was a complete disaster from the New Zealand striker.
Over his 45-minute performance, the 31-year-old flop – whose display was dubbed “awful” by Adam Wesley – had 23 touches, completed just 14 passes, lost 100% of his duels and missed a one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper to equalise late into the second half, a miss which must result in the striker never wearing the black and white shirt again.
Wood has been linked with a potential move away from St James’ Park after falling somewhat out of favour due to his goal-shy approach (just three this season), Callum Wilson’s form and Isak’s arrival, with Leeds United one of the clubs reportedly keeping an eye on the striker.
An opportunity to offload Wood should not be ignored by Howe and PIF if a club should make a concrete offer over the January transfer window, as it is clear from tonight’s disasterclass that the drop-off in quality is huge when replacing his positional peers in the centre-forward role.