By Damian Spellman, PA
Joe Ironside’s dreams came true as he fired League One Cambridge into the FA Cup fourth round at the expense of Premier League strugglers Newcastle.
The 28-year-old striker emulated boyhood hero Alan Shearer at St James’ Park on Saturday when his goal secured a famous 1-0 third round victory and sent the 5,000 travelling fans among a crowd of 51,395 into raptures.
Middlesbrough-born Ironside told BBC Sport: “It panned out how I dreamed about it last night. I am proud of every single one of us.
— Cambridge United FC (@CambridgeUtdFC) January 9, 2022
“I have got to play here and it is stuff I dreamed of. Alan Shearer was my hero, I grew up idolising him – now I have scored the winner at St James’ Park.
“It doesn’t matter how they go in, it could have been that or a worldie, I don’t care. We have all dug in together and it is a momentous day for the football club.”
Ironside’s big moment arrived 56 minutes into the game when, after Martin Dubravka had failed to claim the ball as he closed down Adam May and Fabian Schar had cleared Harvey Knibbs’ shot off the line, he span to fire into the empty net.
However, his contribution might not have proved decisive had it not been for the excellence of keeper Dimitar Mitov, who denied Jacob Murphy twice before the break and Joelinton at the death among a string of fine saves.
Mitov said: “This is why we play football, to play against the big boys, to play against the Premier League teams.
“I love being a goalkeeper, I love diving around for a living.
“I am lost for words. That was something I will never forget, in the first half, the save from Jacob Murphy when I tipped onto the bar and even the Newcastle fans clapped me.”
It proved a sobering afternoon for Newcastle despite the inclusion of new signing Kieran Trippier for the first time.
Head coach Eddie Howe was without leading goalscorer Callum Wilson, who he later revealed will be sidelined for eight weeks by his calf injury, and was also unable to call upon potential replacement Dwight Gayle.
Howe declined to elaborate on the reason for Gayle’s absence, although he had revealed in the build-up to the game that his squad continued to be affected by Covid-19.
Nevertheless, the Magpies had more than enough on the pitch to safely negotiate a path through to the fourth round, and the fact that they were unable to do so in front of chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who later met the players and staff, is a major concern ahead of next Saturday’s vital league clash with fellow strugglers Watford.
Matt Ritchie, captain in the absence of Jamaal Lascelles, told NUFC TV: “It’s obviously a disappointing result. We didn’t put our chances away ultimately.
“We performed in spells well as you’d expect. You could see we had a lot of possession, but in those key moments, we weren’t ruthless enough and we got punished for it.
“But the position we’re in, we can’t dwell on it. We have to try to take what is a really disappointing day, try to take the positives and not dwell on the result.
“Next week is a really important week for training and then a massive, massive game and we won’t be underestimating that, of course.”