Analysis: Sorry, but this IS a crisis, Steve

Steve McClaren
Steve McClaren

Maybe it is time to panic, Steve.

If Newcastle United can’t beat a Championship side’s reserve XI, who can they beat?

At least Sunderland got knocked out by the Premier League leaders.

And Manchester City named a full-strength team on Tuesday at the Stadium of Light.

Sheffield Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal made 10 changes at St James’s Park last night.

Head coach McClaren had insisted after the weekend’s Premier League defeat to Watford that there was “no panic” behind the scenes at the club.

Florian Thauvin

Florian Thauvin

But those fans who saw a second-string Sheffield Wednesday side beat Newcastle 1-0 will beg to differ.

McClaren’s side were awful.

They lacked ideas and imagination. And they lacked leadership.

This was no better than United at their worst last season. Progress?

The result left supporters – who had felt optimistic a few short weeks ago – dispirited and disheartened. And angry.

And the boos at the final whistle had an intensity that seemed to startle McClaren as he left the field.

Next up, of course, are Premier League champions Chelsea on Saturday.

It won’t get any easier for a team which has only beaten League Two Northampton Town so far this season.

Newcastle looked disjointed and disorganised.

Carlos Carvalhal and Moudou Sougou

Carlos Carvalhal and Moudou Sougou

And the result left supporters – who had felt optimistic a few short weeks ago – dispirited and disheartened. And angry.

Carvalhal made twice as many changes as injury and suspension-hit McClaren for this third-round tie.

Yet they were the better team.

McClaren, conscious of his team’s dire start against Watford four days earlier, talked about the importance of the first 10 minutes in his programme notes, and Newcastle played with a better intensity in the opening stages.

But they lacked a telling ball in the final third of the pitch.

Moussa Sissoko struck the post with a side-footed effort from a Gabriel Obertan pass in the 11th minute, but United struggled to convert their possession into clear-cut chances.

Sadly, the team’s performance quickly unravelled.

Thauvin – who had wreaked havoc against Northampton in the previous round of the competition – was particularly careless in possession.

The winger caused more problems for his own team.

Thauvin had again turned up in a dinner jacket, but he simply didn’t turn up for the game itself.

Wednesday’s Marco Matias forced a 17th-minute save from Tim Krul with a shot from the edge of the box

Thauvin continued to frustrate McClaren – and United’s fans – as the half wore on, and Ayoze Perez, surprisingly left out of the starting XI, was soon warming up.

In a rare attack, Sissoko crossed for Siem de Jong on the half-hour mark, but Tom Lees made a crucial interception.

Wednesday’s increasingly-vocal travelling fans were enjoying their evening at St James’s Park.

Newcastle’s support – who had been caught in long queues outside before kick-off time – urged their team to “attack, attack, attack” as the half-time break approached.

For them, it was less about enjoyment and more about endurance.

Not surprisingly, Thauvin didn’t make it out for the second half given his shockingly wasteful first-half performance.

The winger was replaced by Perez, while Daryl Janmaat – who had been sick late in the half – was replaced by debutant Kevin Mbabu, who didn’t make a competitive appearance for Rangers during his half-season loan at Ibrox last term.

Sissoko took the captain’s armband from Janmaat, who had demanded to play in the game.

Things didn’t get much better after the break.

United struggled to break a stubborn Wednesday down, and the visitors themselves had some joy on the break.

Mbabu was fortunate to stay on the field after lunging at Matias – referee Chris Kavanagh showed him a yellow card – and the warning signs were there for Newcastle.

McClaren, flanked by assistant coach Paul Simpson, was on his feet, urging his players forward.

Wednesday winger Modou Sougou forced a save from Tim Krul in the 65th minute, and Perez shot into the side netting from a Sissoko pass at the other end.

The 70-minute mark passed without the home team having had a shot on target.

Teenage striker Ivan Toney, signed from Northampton in the summer, replaced Obertan for the last 20 minutes.

Then the inevitable happened.

United failed to deal with a ball into the box, and the ball broke for Lewis McGugan, who drilled a low shot from 20 yards which Krul couldn’t keep out of the net.

Two minutes later, visiting substitute Sergio Bus struck the crossbar from close range.

Georginio Wijnaldum had a shot on target late in the game, and de Jong wasted two chances in added time.

And that was that.

The sad thing is it wasn’t even a shock.