Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Newcastle United 3 Luton Town 1

Newcastle United's Ayoze Perez celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the FA Cup, third round match at St James' Park.
Newcastle United's Ayoze Perez celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the FA Cup, third round match at St James' Park.

There’s a £20million prize pot at Newcastle United for winning the FA Cup.

But money was the last thing on the minds of the club’s players as they took on Luton Town on Saturday.

They just wanted to play. And win.

Few on Tyneside expect six-times FA Cup winners Newcastle to reach Wembley this season.

But this was a start.

A crowd of 47,069, including 7,500 from Luton, turned up to see a proper FA Cup tie, and they saw one.

United – who won 3-1 to book a place in the fourth round – didn’t have it all their own way. Luton had a go, and the League Two leaders – and their fans – deserve credit for playing their part in a decent third-round tie.

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez set the tone by naming a strong starting XI.

And the team made a strong start, though they had a let-off when the visitors failed to take advantage of an misjudged kick from debutant Freddie Woodman.

United, otherwise, played with intensity and intelligence.

They probed away and took the lead in the 30th minute through a goal from Ayoze Perez, who poked the ball home after Marek Stech spilled a free-kick from Dwight Gayle.

Perez soon scored another, and Jonjo Shelvey swept the ball home after a good attacking move involving Perez and Gayle.

Luton saw more of the ball after the break and Danny Hylton pulled a goal back.

Hylton also wrongly had a second goal ruled out for offside. Had that strike stood, the outcome could have been very different.

It was the first time that Newcastle had reached the fourth round of the competition at the first time of asking in five years.

Benitez, we know, doesn’t believe that United have a chance of winning the competition.

And future cup starting XIs might not be so strong given that Premier League survival is the club’s overriding priority this season.

But fans can still dream.

So too can the players.

The competition has long had a place in Woodman’s heart.

The 20-year-old has been hooked since watching his father Andy – who was at St James’s Park to see his son make his debut – play for Oxford United against Arsenal.

“One time I remember watching the FA Cup when my dad played for Oxford against Arsenal,” said the goalkeeper. “That’s when my love for the Cup started.

“I watched him play at Highbury, and then from then on I kept going to every cup final, with my first one at Wembley, and then I went to the Millennium Stadium to follow it.

“The two years before it started at Wembley I went, then I kept going at Wembley until after my first year here, when I couldn’t really keep going and supporting other clubs while I was at Newcastle United.”

Woodman was given then-Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman’s shirt and gloves after the tie at Highbury.

“I remember when my Dad played in the third round against Arsenal, he came home and I was in Seaman’s shirt and his gloves, and it was like the best thing ever,” said Woodman.

“I couldn’t understand why my dad was out there playing against Dennis Bergkamp and people like that.

“I couldn’t understand it, but when I got older I realised what the FA Cup was about, and it’s something that is so close to my heart.

“I’m just so buzzing to play in it.”

It’s a nice story, and it underlines that magic of the competition.

This probably won’t be United’s year.

Benitez, like his predecessors at the club, is preoccupied with Premier League survival.

But the club, which last won the FA Cup in 1955, is certainly due a cup run.

And you never know.