Cambridge boss Mark Bonner saluted his players as they proved the magic of the FA Cup is still alive after the League One side dumped Premier League Newcastle out of the competition.
Joe Ironside’s second-half goal secured a famous 1-0 third-round win at St James’ Park on an afternoon when recent Magpies signing Kieran Trippier was handed an insight into the problems his new employers – who have lost striker Callum Wilson to injury for eight weeks – face.
Asked about the suggestion that the FA Cup is not what it once was, Bonner said: “It certainly is to teams at our level.
“I understand that some say that and why – there’s more football now than there ever was before.
“But the magic of the FA Cup, I guess, is about the underdog pulling out a surprise story. We knew going into today there’s always an upset somewhere and whether we could be it, we didn’t know.
“But somehow we found a way of doing it and I’m delighted that we have done.”
For Middlesbrough-born Ironside, the goal which took his club into the fourth round for the first time since they met Manchester United in 2015, was extra special at a ground so often graced by boyhood hero Alan Shearer.
Bonner said: “This was the game he wanted when the draw came around last time and he dreamed of scoring against them. Shearer was his idol, so it’s a major moment for him and I’m really proud of him and the contribution that he’s made to the game.”
Cambridge were also indebted to keeper Dimitar Mitov, who made two fine saves from Jacob Murphy before the break, but saved the best until it mattered most when he somehow turned away Joelinton’s stoppage-time header to seal victory.
In truth, it was little more than the visitors deserved after the Magpies, who have now won only once in 20 games in all competitions this season, failed to make the most of their early dominance and then simply ran out of ideas in the face of concerted defence.
Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan was in attendance and visited the dressing room along with his fellow directors to voice their support after an embarrassing defeat by a side sitting 41 places below the relegation-threatened Magpies.
Head coach Eddie Howe said: “I believe they were very supportive to the players, highlighting the fact that they are in this fight to stay in the league together and they’re very much behind everybody, and I can’t thank them enough for that support.
“It was really beneficial for the players to see that and feel that because this journey that we’re going on currently and the fight we’re in to stay in the division is a united effort from everybody in the club.
“The supporters are playing their part, no doubt – they’ve been magnificent – and the owners wanted to show their support for the players, and it was really welcome for me.”
Howe, who confirmed Wilson will be sidelined until March by a calf injury, admitted his side had simply not done enough to win the game.
He said: “It was a really difficult day for us. A lot of our play was pretty good until the last half but our quality around the box was just missing.
“We put a huge amount of crosses into the box with very limited success. We did create a number of chances, but didn’t take them.”