Five talking points from Newcastle United's FA Cup win

Last night Newcastle United progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time since 2012, thanks to a 3-1 win over Birmingham City.

Thursday, 19th January 2017, 11:12 am
Updated Thursday, 19th January 2017, 11:16 am
Yoan Gouffran is congratulated by Jonjo Shelvey.

A Yoan Gouffran cracker and a Matt Ritchie double ensured the Magpies progressed, with a tie at Oxford United lying in wait at the end of the month.

But what would manager Rafa Benitez have learned, if anything, from the encounter?

Here we take a look at three key talking points to arise from the clash.

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The kids are alright

When the teams news dropped at St James' Park last night, an hour before kick-off, there were a few shocked faces in the press room.

Now Benitez had promised to make a changes to his side, but few expected him to hand debuts to three first-team novices.

Yasin El-Mhanni, Dan Barlaser and Stuart Findlay, barely close to making a United appearance between them this campaign, were all thrown in at the deep end by the gaffer.

And it's fair to say they all swam, not one looked like sinking under the weight of pressure.

YouTube sensation El-Mhanni had the toughest baptism of the trio and was given little time or space to show his obvious array of talents. But he never stopped wanting to get on the ball which is a positive sign moving forward.

Birthday boy Barlaser was solid in the middle and did the simple things well. That also is no bad thing for a midfielder.

Probably the stand out of the new boys was summer signing Stuart Findlay, though.

Playing alongside countryman Grant Hanley he looked calm and assured, even dealing with the physical threat of Lukas Jutkiewicz admirably.

Jonjo Shelvey is United's worst kept secret

This is nothing new. When Shelvey plays well, so too do United invariably.

The midfielder has been out of the starting XI for the last five games, and the side has just lacked a spark. Results have clearly suffered as a result of his absence.

Shelvey's ability to spot a defence-splitting pass, where others would not, is a tool United have become reliant on this campaign.

It is no shock that he had a heavy hand in every one of the three goals last night. The pass to find Gouffran for the penalty was straight out of the top drawer.

Put simply, he is irreplaceable. God forbid he gets an injury between now and the end of the campaign.

Ritchie coming back into form

Form is temporary, class is permanent - that's how the old saying goes.

And what is in no doubt is that Scotland international Ritchie is a player of some ability.

Having scored and created goals for fun with former club Bournemouth at this level Ritchie has not quite hit the same heights for the Magpies.

But last night he was at his very best. And he was very unlucky not grab a hat-trick. Long may it continue.

Gouffran can play central role

When the Frenchman arrived from Bordeaux he came primarily as a forward player, having played up top regularly in Ligue 1.

But at United has rarely, if ever, been used in that role.

In his time he has played left, right, even having an embarrassingly unsuccessful spell as a holding midfielder under Steve McClaren.

But last night he was given a striking berth and his movement was very impressive.

The remarkable goal he scored put the icing on the cake on what was a very creditable performance individually, and collectively.

Lazaar finally comes to the party

United fans have had to wait a long time for summer signing Achraf Lazaar to come to the fore.

Seemingly signed to plug a problematic left-back position, the Moroccan has been unable to displace ever-reliable Paul Dummett, who has become one of Rafa's trusted first-team turn to men this campaign.

But in the last few weeks the signs are that Lazaar is finally up to speed with English football.

And while he showed flashes as a wide midfielder at St Andrews, he excelled as an out-and-out left-back last night.

It will be interesting to see whether the manager is ready to back Lazaar to do a job there week-in, week-out in the Championship, or whether he again turns back to the tried and tested.