IT was almost unheard of. A comfortable cup win for Newcastle United.
As fans were still coming to terms with the shocking, if not surprising, admission in a Fans Forum this week that the cup competition’s were “not a priority” for the club’s hierarchy, the team quietly went about their business at St James’s Park.
And goals from Papiss Demba Cisse – with the strike his first in 1,005 minutes – and Yoan Gouffran ensured Newcastle’s place in the last 16 of the Capital One Cup.
Maybe owner Mike Ashley will have a word. After all, there’s not much money to be made from the cups.
There’s only silverware, pride and honour – the things that matter to supporters – at stake in knockout competitions. Too bad if you’re a fan who wants to see the club actually win something.
Manager Alan Pardew, at least, was keen to stress the importance of the cups to him on the eve of the game, and he named a strong starting XI. It included Fabricio Coloccini, Tim Krul, Cheik Tiote and Mathieu Debuchy.
And thankfully the players did enough on the pitch to suggest that actually winning something is a priority for them during their careers on Tyneside.
Leeds, backed by 5,971 fans spread across St James’s Park’s Level 7, had the game’s first real chance. Ross McCormack’s chip from outside the area had Krul beaten, but it struck the left post.
At the other end, Cisse twice miss-kicked in front of goal after Debuchy found him with a right-wing cross in the 10th minute.
Newcastle and Leeds fans chanted and applauded in the 11th minute in memory of the late Gary Speed, who wore of the No11 of both clubs during his long and distinguised playing career.
A Coloccini header from a Sylvain Marveaux corner was cleared off the line by Matt Smith. Another shot from Tiote struck Cisse, who himself put another opportunity into the side netting.
Debuchy wasn’t able to stop a left-wing McCormack cross as the half-hour mark approached, and Krul did well to stop a header from Coloccini, which was inadvertantly directed towards his own goal.
But the breakthrough, fortunately, came at the other end.
Sammy Ameobi – who had been called to the bench minutes earlier for a pep talk – took the ball on the left wing and delivered an inviting cross for Cisse.
The striker powerfully headed the ball past Paddy Kenny to end a goal drought drought, dating back to April 11, which has encompassed a lot – the final few minutes of a Europa League campaign, a relegation run-in and a new start this season.
It was an emphatic finish. The sort of goal Cisse can score, and should score, on a regular basis.
A lack of service and confidence, and fitness at times, has hampered Cisse over the past 12 months, but there was nothing wrong with Ameobi’s cross. And there was nothing wrong with Cisse’s header. More of the same, please.
And the 28-year-old was warmly applauded off the field when he made way for Gabriel Obertan in the second half.
Leeds made life uncomfortable for Newcastle after the break. Krul saved well from striker Matt Smith, and McCormack was a danger whenever he was on the ball.
But Gouffran all but put the tie beyond Brian McDermott’s side in the 67th minute. The forward took a pass from Ameobi with his goal to goal, turned and beat Kenny with a right-footed finish from 20 yards.
The goal broke the last of Leeds’s resistance.
Substitute Obertan forced a good save from Kenny in the 79th minute after breaking clear, and visiting captain Rodolph Austin stopped him tapping the loose ball into the net.
Obertan forced another save with the last kick of what had been an enjoyable and well-contested match.
Manchester City await in the next round.
Hopefully, the competition will be an even lesser priority for Manuel Pellegrini than for Ashley.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul 7; Debuchy 6, Williamson 6, Coloccini 7, Dummett 8; Marveaux 7, Anita 8 (Gosling 80), Tiote 7, Sammy Ameobi 6; Gouffran 6, Cisse 6 (Obertan 71).
Subs not used: Ben Arfa, Yanga-Mbiwa, Bigirimana, Vuckic, Alnwick. LEEDS UNITED: Kenny 6; Byram 7, Wootton 6, Pearce 6, Warnock 6; Austin 7; Tonge 6 (Diouf 63), Mowatt 6, McCormack 8; Smith 6; Poleon 6. Subs: Murphy, Green, Hunt, White, Brown, Cairns