Ashley was smiling as Newcastle United booked a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 4-1 win over Rochdale tonight.
Miguel Almiron and Matty Longstaff were also on target for Newcastle, who took the lead through an own goal.
Up to now, the club has been looking at the loan market. Will Bruce’s “pitch” – he would love a January signing like Miguel Almiron, who joined a year ago – change things?
There’s been a marked change in tone under Bruce, who talked of Ashley’s “support” before the game. Rafa Benitez, his predecessor, was involved in a series of stand-offs with Ashley. Time will tell if Bruce’s approach is any more successful.
A significant moment came in the first half after Longstaff’s goal. There was a chant of “Brucey, give us a wave” from one corner of the stadium. Bruce quickly waved.
Captain Jamaal Lascelles had made his comeback, while Karl Darlow made a rare start in goal. Darlow, it turned out, didn’t have much to do before the break. The game was all but over by the 26th minute, when Almiron made it 3-0.
Newcastle took a 17th-minute lead through an Eoghan O’Connell own goal – the defender turned a Matt Ritchie cross meant for Joelinton past goalkeeper Robert Sanchez – and Longstaff doubled United’s advantage three minutes later, again from a Ritchie cross. Almiron then scored for the third successive game.
Bruce sent out an unchanged side for the second half, though a change wasn’t long in coming. Lascelles was replaced by debutant Tom Allan, a 20-year-old striker, in the 57th minute. Andy Carroll and Jonjo Shelvey followed him on to the pitch.
The game had long been won by the the Joelinton scored only his second Newcastle goal.
Jordan Williams scored a consolation for Rochdale.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow, Krafth, Lascelles (Allan, 57), Lejeune, Ritchie (Shelvey, 70), Hayden, S Longstaff, M Longstaff, Atsu, Almiron (Carroll, 62), Joelinton. Subs not used: Elliot, Clark, Willems, Fernandez.