By Matt Farr
Football Insider investigates three major talking points from Newcastle’s 3-0 defeat to Oxford in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Defeat not the end of the world for Newcastle
While defeat to lower opposition, not to mention an early cup exit, is not a pleasant moment for any manager, Rafa Benitez will not be too disheartened. He made a number of changes to his side to rest his players ahead of their Championship campaign, as he has his sights set on success in the Championship first and foremost. Plus, several of his fringe players gave decent displays against Oxford, and Benitez knows he can call on them in the coming months if required. Games continue to come thick and fast for Newcastle this season, and they now avert their full attention to their pursuit of the league title.
Murphy the best option in Gayle absence
With Dwight Gayle and 22-year-old Aleksandar Mitrovic both out injured in recent weeks, Daryl Murphy has shouldered the goalscoring burden, and has been in impressive form. However, with Mitrovic back in contention to face Oxford, Benitez handed him a starting role to build up his match fitness, with Murphy sitting out. However, his lack of action in recent weeks appeared to take its’ toll on the Serbian striker, who wasted several golden opportunities to score for Newcastle. His wasteful display was capped-off with a penalty miss, as the Magpies struggled to find the all-important goal to pull them back into the tie. Unfortunately, there was no-inform Murphy to call upon from the bench, and Newcastle would have loved to have had him available to turn things around. As Gayle continues his recovery for injury, it is clear that until Mitrovic can find his feet again, 33-year-old Murphy is the best option to lead the line.
Defensive depth not good enough
The presence of premier centre-back duo Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark has meant that very few opportunities have been presented to their team-mates, but they got an opportunity to make a case for themselves on Saturday. However, they did little to convince Benitez that they can be relied on, shipping three goals to a side two divisions below them. With Premier League football on the agenda for next season, Benitez will need to make a host of changes in the defensive department if his side are to succeed back in the top-flight. The likes of Curtis Good, Massadio Haidara and Jesus Gamez doing little to fight their corner. In some cases, it could be put down to a lack of match practice, but it was a poor display from them.
In other Newcastle news, Daryl Murphy has spoken about his long-term future with the club.