ONE sentence from Gustavo Poyet explained why his Brighton and Hove Albion team were in the FA Cup fourth-round draw and Newcastle United were not.
He said: “Andrea Orlandi was 50-50 to play, we took a risk, a nice risk, a good decision and it paid off.”
Orlandi hooked in the improbable goal which inspired his team to a depressingly-predictable FA Cup shock. More decisive was the contrasting mindsets of the opposing managers.
While fortune favoured brave Brighton, Newcastle’s Alan Pardew erred very firmly on the side of caution.
Rob Elliot was preferred to Tim Krul, Mehdi Abeid to Sylvain Marveaux and when a substitute was needed, Paul Dummett was handed his Newcastle debut over Shane Ferguson.
Fabricio Coloccini and Papiss Cissé were stood down with niggles which did not stop them completing 90 minutes against Everton days earlier and were minor enough they have already been passed fit to face Norwich City on Saturday.
Newcastle may have lost anyway, but those five decisions sent out the message they were not up for the Cup.
Inexcusable though it was, the safety-first, second and third approach seemed to subdue players who ought to have seen Saturday’s game as an opportunity to press first-team claims.
Only Elliot, Gaël Bigirimana and the already secure Vurnon Anita played to their capabilities.
Abeid did little to support his midfield colleagues, the front three were feeble until Sammy Ameobi was perked up by a red card to his brother.
While the back-four horrors of the Christmas away games did not reappear, they had little to be proud of.
Run ragged by Kazenga LuaLua in the latter stages, Davide Santon’s body and mind seem to be suffering.
Iinjuries, though, mean Mathieu Debuchy’s debut will not be enough to allow a rest, with Dummett not yet ready to start a vital Premier League match after just 45 minutes as a Newcastle first-teamer.
In a match where the object was protecting his big-hitters, Pardew lost Shola Ameobi and the invaluable versatility of James Perch for the next skirmish in their Premier League relegation battle. When the chips are down, Sod’s Law often hands down harsh sentences.