Ruthless Newcastle United thrash Preston North End
Rafael Benitez’s Toon rack up six against 10-man Preston at St James’ Park
Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates scoring Newcastle’s fourth as they thrashed Preston 6-0. Photograph: Getty
Newcastle United 6 Preston North End 0
Rafael Benítez’s success in re-connecting Newcastle United with its previously disenchanted, disenfranchised supporters was emphasised by an attendance of more than 49,000.
Astonishingly high for a League Cup tie between two Championship sides, it offered further evidence that something very special is happening in this corner of north east England. Certainly as the goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic (twice), Mohamed Diamé (twice) and Matt Ritchie flew in and the almost religious fervour mounted, it was possible to believe that Benítez really could walk on the River Tyne.
Judging from the increasingly vexed look on his face, the final whistle could not come soon enough for Simon Grayson, whose Preston side spent most of the tie down to 10 men after Alan Browne’s sending off.
While Grayson made nine changes to the Preston starting XI which had beaten Norwich City last Saturday, Benítez’s team-sheet featured seven alterations from the side which defeated Ipswich Town at the weekend.
Indeed the recalled Mitrovic and Diamé soon delighted in stretching Grayson’s back three in what could be seen as a somewhat peculiar dress rehearsal for Saturday’s Championship meeting between these two teams at Deepdale.
First Benítez was determined to guide Newcastle into only their second domestic cup quarter final in 12 years. Isaac Hayden momentarily thought he had helped his side take a significant step down that road but the midfielder’s viciously angled shot rebounded off the inside of a post.
No matter; Hayden would soon win an evening changing free kick. When Ritchie’s looping, floated, execution of that set piece confounded Grayson’s backline, the totally unmarked Mitrovic delighted in heading beyond Anders Lindegaard. “Mitro, Mitro,” chorused the jubilant St James’ Park choir.
If Benítez cut a study in quiet contentment as he adjusted his glasses, Grayson’s scowl reflected his displeasure with Eoin Doyle whose idiotic challenge from behind on Hayden not only earned him a booking but permitted Ritchie to show off his goal creating dead ball expertise.
Preston’s discipline soon deteriorated further. Alan Browne left Andrew Madley, the referee, with no choice but to send him off after smashing an elbow into Jack Colback’s face as they challenged for an aerial ball. It left Colback needing to be helped off with a compress covering his eyes and nose and Shelvey receiving an unexpected call to arms.
Although Lindegaard did well to repel a shot from Christian Atsu, Diamé soon extended Newcastle’s lead. The former Hull City midfielder has had a quiet, slightly underwhelming, start to his time on Tyneside but finally Diamé reminded everyone of his ability by meeting Mitrovic’s deflected pass and unleashing a superlative, low, first time shot in the bottom corner from around 25 yards. This time, even Lindegaard had no chance.
Within minutes though Diamé was prone on the turf, thumping it in despair after making an awful hash of a wonderful opportunity to register another goal following an intercepted visiting backpass and Mitrovic’s unselfish lay off.
Mitrovic was soon begging Ritchie to allow him to take a penalty after the winger was brought down in the area by Bailey Wright but Ritchie clung onto the ball with grim determination before beating Lindegaard from the spot.
Determined not to be eclipsed, Mitrovic soon scored again though, the Serbia striker scoring a brilliant goal after adroitly controlling the ball with his chest and wrong- footing two defenders and the goalkeeper before shooting home. All that remained was for Newcastle’s biggest ’character’ to be booked for ripping his shirt off in celebration.
There was still time for Diamé to use his right foot to despatch a spectacular long range fifth into the bottom corner and Pérez to shoot the sixth as the Gallowgate End sang “We’re going to Wemberlee.”