Newcastle Browne Fail - Dave Seddon's verdict on PNE's 6-0 defeat
This was not what a night on the Toon should have been all about '“ it was an absolute horror show at St James' Park for Preston.
They were led a merry dance by Newcastle United who were far superior and walloped them for six.
For long spells, North End’s shadow squad were left chasing shadows, the second half resembling a training drill of attack versus defence.
What did not help the cause was having to play 65 minutes with 10 men after Alan Browne got a red card.
The young midfielder had a rush of blood as he led with his elbow in a challenge for a high ball with Jack Colback.
Not only did his dismissal give the visitors a numerical disadvantage, it inadvertently brought Jonjo Shelvey into the contest.
The former Swansea man had been given a rest on the bench but was needed to replace Colback who went off to hospital after his collision with Browne.
Shelvey came on and pretty much ran the game from midfield, keeping the Magpies on the front foot and piling on the pressure.
Browne will serve a three-match ban for his indiscretion and owes his team-mates an apology.
PNE were a goal down when Browne got his marching orders.
They fell further behind before the interval, before crumbling in the second period, in similar fashion to what happened late on at Brentford last month.
Newcastle are far superior to Brentford, though, and could have ended up with more than their six.
They struck the woodwork three times during the course of the evening.
Forays into Geordie territory were rare for the Lilywhites, an 86th-minute header from skipper-for-the-night Paul Huntington their one effort on target.
If that was a moment to celebrate – it brought cheers from the 1,286 travelling supporters – then the joy did not last long.
Newcastle’s final two goals came after that, Rafa Benitez’s men keeping the boot on the throat until the bitter end.
Simon Grayson’s choice of team was questioned by fans as part of the post-match inquest.
He made nine changes to the side which had won against Norwich, Bailey Wright and Ben Pringle the two to retain their places.
One eye was clearly on the Championship game against the same black and white opposition on Saturday.
Grayson will argue that he made more changes for the last round at Premier League side Bournemouth and came away with a 3-2 win.
Last night’s changes worked to their detriment, with few of those who came in making an impact.
That will no doubt make Grayson’s job a whole lot easier when it comes to choosing the team at the weekend, no one last night giving him food for thought.
Many of the side struggled and if it had been difficult with 11 men, it got harder with one less.
PNE were in a 3-5-2 system, Huntington having Wright and Ben Davies for company at the back.
Chris Humphrey and Tommy Spurr operated in the wing-back slots, either side of a midfield trio of Browne, Liam Grimshaw and Pringle.
Up front Eoin Doyle and Simon Makienok had the task of ruffling the Magpies feathers, neither able to do so.
Doyle had to drop into midfield after Browne’s red card, leaving Makienok to lead the line on his own.
A sign of how the first half would pan out, came in the 16th minute when Deandre Yedlin’s shot from the right hand side of the box beat Anders Lindegaard and smacked against the far post.
The hosts took a 19th minute lead. Matt Ritchie lifted a free-kick from the left channel into the box where it was a bit too easy for the unmarked Aleksandar Mitrovic to climb and head home from six yards.
North End went down to 10 men in the 25th minute, Browne leading with his arm as he challenged Colback.
Referee Andy Madley had the red card out quickly and there could be few complaints.
Newcastle doubled their lead in the 38th minute as Mitrovic picked up possession in the PNE half and drove forward, his shot blocked by the sliding Huntington.
The ball slightly fortuitous fell into the path of Mohamed Diame who did not break strike before drilling a first-time shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
A double substitution at the interval saw Tom Clarke and Paul Gallagher replace Davies and Pringle, young Davies having particularly struggled on the left side of the defence.
The changes failed to halt the slide and within 10 minutes of the re-start, PNE had conceded twice more.
Newcastle’s third goal arrived from the penalty spot, Wright harshly adjudged to have brought down Ritchie.
Former Bournemouth man Ritchie picked himself up off the floor to take the spot kick, dispatching it into the roof of the net giving Lindegaard no chance.
Two minutes came the fourth, Serbian front man Mitrovic jinking his way in from the left side of the box, before tucking a low shot past the keeper.
Huntington warmed Matz Sels’ gloves with a header from Daniel Johnson’s corner, keeper Sels diving to his left to push it away.
The home side swept back up the other end to inflict two more doses of misery on Grayson’s men.
Diame got the fifth in the 87th minute, pushing out of midfield and shooting past a static Lindegaard from 25 yards.
Substitute Ayoze Perez hit the sixth from the edge of the box in stoppage-time after North End had only partly cleared a corner.
Quite a night and not for the right reasons.