Miles Starforth's verdict on Newcastle United's unconvincing Carabao Cup win over Blackburn Rovers

There wasn’t a takeover this summer, but Newcastle United’s team, at least, has had a makeover.
Ryan Fraser.Ryan Fraser.
Ryan Fraser.

The club made it two wins from two tonight with a Carabao Cup 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers at St James’s Park.

But this second-round success was far, far less convincing than Saturday’s 2-0 Premier League win over West Ham United at the London Stadium, and Tony Mowbray’s side left the pitch wondering just how they hadn’t scored.

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Newcastle’s winner came from Ryan Fraser, meaning all three goals so far have come from new signings on their debuts.

Fraser, like Callum Wilson and Jeff Hendrick, looks to be an astute addition to the squad, and goalkeeper Mark Gillespie also played his part with a second-half double save.

Steve Bruce had pledged to make “wholesale changes” before the game – and listed most of the players who would come into his team.

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United’s head coach made 10 changes, yet the team, at least on paper, looked strong. Fraser and Gillespie came in for their debuts, while Ciaran Clark returned from injury along with Matt Ritchie.

There was a buzz on the pitch as the players warmed up, but not in the near-empty stadium. The players had a spring in their step in the warm-up as Bruce talked with Mowbray, his Blackburn counterpart, in front of the dugouts.

The last time these two clubs met, in the FA Cup the season before last, Rafa Benitez was manager of Newcastle. So much has changed at United since then – on and off the pitch – but the core of that team remains.

And Ritchie, a stalwart for the past four years, wore the captain’s armband.

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Blackburn made the better start, and Lewis Holtby put an early chance wide from a Ryan Nyambe ball. Newcastle took their time to settle into the game, and Bruce’s booming voice echoed around the stadium as he shouted instructions to his players.

The visitors played with urgency and energy, but the half’s first moment of real quality came from a United player – and it broke the deadlock. Miguel Almiron took the ball in midfield and played a superb reverse pass to Fraser, whose shot went in off Blackburn goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski.

Newcastle took their lead into the break, and Blackburn pushed for an equaliser. Jacob Murphy replaced Fraser after Gillespie – who left Newcastle as a 16-year-old and joined Carlisle United – made a double save to deny Ben Brereton and Amari’i Bell.

Former United forward Adam Armstrong came on for Blackburn as they pressed on. Holtby had a shot deflected wide, and Bruce’s side found it hard to break out of their own half.

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Bruce replaced the ineffective Joelinton with Allan Saint-Maximin late in the game.

Newcastle, somehow, held on to reach the third round of the competition, where they will face Morecambe, but if they are to have a run in the cup, they’ll need to play much, much better.

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