A Wednesday side featuring 10 changes to the one which started Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Fulham secured a famous 1-0 victory at St James’ Park with the Magpies, who have publicly reversed their recent policy of dismissing the domestic cup competitions as an irrelevance, turning in another dreadful display.
McClaren’s men did not manage a single shot of note on target over 90 soul-sapping minutes and have now won just one of the eight games they have contested so far this season with League Two Northampton their only victims in the last round of the same competition.
The former England manager fielded as strong a team as he dared, but having insisted in recent weeks that he has enough strikers with the club having not pushed home their interest in QPR’s Charlie Austin during the summer, started without any of them.
His hands were tied to a degree with Aleksandar Mitrovic completing his three-match ban and Papiss Cisse and Emmanuel Riviere injured, but with Ayoze Perez sitting on the bench, it was number 10 Siem de Jong who was asked to lead the line.
Not unexpectedly, it was a task which proved beyond the Holland international as ponderous build-up and woeful service shackled the Magpies during the opening 45 minutes.
Moussa Sissoko, one of the few men to inject any pace into the game, if only fleetingly, saw an 11th-minute shot clip the outside of goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith’s far post, and it took defender Tom Lees’ intervention to prevent De Jong from converting the Frenchman’s 30th-minute cross.
For their part, the visitors grew in confidence as the half wore on with both Marco Matias and Jeremy Helan testing Tim Krul from distance, while Lees headed a McGugan corner dangerously back across the face of goal 10 minutes before the break.
McClaren’s players, who had earlier been exhorted to “attack, attack, attack, attack, attack”, returned after the break without skipper-for-the-night Daryl Janmaat, who had been taken ill, and Florian Thauvin as Kevin Mbabu was handed a debut and Perez was belatedly introduced, allowing De Jong to return to more familiar territory.
But Wednesday were looking increasingly threatening on the break and Krul was relieved to see Modou Sougou fire wide of the far post after blocking his initial 64th-minute effort.
Perez hit the side-netting after turning smartly on Sissoko’s pass four minutes later, but it was the visitors who took the lead with 14 minutes remaining when the home side failed to deal with a ball into the box and when it broke to McGugan, he drilled it past Krul.
It could have been even worse for Newcastle had Krul not turned Lucas Joao’s header on to the crossbar with substitute Sergio Bus hitting the same part of the woodwork with his follow-up three minutes later, but De Jong passed up two late opportunities to spare their blushes.
Wednesday: Wildsmith, Palmer, Loovens, Semedo, Matias, McGugan, Lees, Wiggins, Helan, Joao, Sougou. Subs: Price, Turner, Nuhiu, Bus, Lopez, Pudil, Bannan
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