IN the end it was just another heroic failure.
Mind that in itself is an improvement on tepid FA Cup surrenders to the might of Stevenage and Brighton in recent years.
Newcastle United’s fruitless hunt for silverware will lurch into a 45th year after a tense night at St James’s Park ended in a deserved 4-2 aggregate victory for Europa League quarter-final opponents Benfica.
For all the Magpies’ frantic rather than elegant second-half pressure, the best team over two games won.
Now quickly back to bread and butter reality and Sunday’s visit from the neighbours.
In one sense the quick turn around should be to Newcastle’s advantage as there is little time to dwell on Thursday’s disappointment.
In another it plays into the hands of new Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio’s superfit athletes.
Not that a week off worked for Southampton, Stoke and Fulham when they endured Sunday lunch at St James’s after the Magpies’ various European exertions.
Was it not also Sunderland who seemed to tire first at Chelsea last Sunday after the Londoners’ had played not one but two midweek matches extra?
Nor am I convinced that Di Canio can turn predecessor Martin O’Neill’s defensive line-ups into fluent attacking units in a fortnight.
My take is a disappointing 1-1 draw which will prolong the relegation agony for both sides and leave the rest of the country wondering just what all the fuss is about.
The biggest North-East derby ever. That’s what many a pub philosopher is labelling it.
A label freely used about the relagtion tussles on Tyneside in both 2008 and 2009.
Oh and one that I suspect will be trotted out again 12 months hence.
And all this just a three weeks away from a Merseyside derby which Liverpool fans in particular are demeaning as “the battle for sixth”.
“The battle for sixth.” Make that “sixth bottom” here in the North-East.
Both teams would settle for that now come May 19 and the overriding fear of defeat is likely to predominate during a dismal 90 minutes.
- GAVIN LEDWITH