Miles Starforth's verdict on Newcastle's FA embarrassment

Newcastle fans at the Kassam Stadium

Newcastle fans at the Kassam Stadium

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Rafa Benitez wanted to go through. He said as much after the game.

But his teamsheet, which featured NINE changes, told a slightly different story.

Newcastle United's injury-hit manager, mindful of next week's two Championship homes games, made it clear before today's fourth-round FA Cup tie against Oxford United that he would use his squad.

READ MORE: Rafa Benitez defends his team selection after Newcastle crash out of FA Cup

The thing is, the squad isn't quite as good as we all thought it was.

Newcastle's 3-0 defeat at the Kassam Stadium was deserved. And it was embarrassing. It was a weak team, but the players should have been stronger.

Injuries and the African Cup of Nations had left Benitez short of numbers ahead of the tie.

Benitez, not certain that the club will make any signings before Tuesday night's transfer deadline, insisted that he didn't want to take any "risks" with his key players.

But he knew when he named his team that he was risking the club's participation in the FA Cup.

Benitez knows, ultimately, that he will be judged on one thing, and one thing alone, between now and the end of the season.

And that's whether he takes the club back into the Premier League – or not.

If Newcastle return to the top flight at the first attempt, this defeat will be a footnote when the story of the campaign is written.

How badly did Benitez want to win this game?

Maybe not as badly as the 1,787 fans that made the long journey to the Kassam Stadium.