Luton victory gives Benitez hope of deep Toon Cup run
Newcastle United 3 Luton Town 1
Rafael Benitez is hoping Newcastle's Premier League position and his casualty list will allow him to pursue an FA Cup run this season.
The Spaniard fielded as close to his strongest XI as he dared for the third-round clash with Luton yesterday after admitting during the run-up to the game that top-flight survival was his overwhelming priority for the season.
He was rewarded with a 3-1 victory at St James' Park and is keeping his fingers crossed that circumstances allow him to make a similar decision in the next round.
"I don't want to lie to anyone," said Benitez. "I said this game was important for us, to go through, to play a strong team and hopefully the next one, I can say the same.
"But you have to approach every game depending on your team, your injuries, your problems and, at the moment, we could manage with a very strong side on the pitch. We will see for the next one, but my feeling, my idea, is to do the same if we can do it."
Newcastle effectively sealed victory inside nine first-half minutes when Ayoze Perez struck twice from close range before Jonjo Shelvey added a third with the break looming. However, Danny Hylton pulled one back four minutes after the restart and thought he had reduced the deficit further, only to see his attempt ruled out for offside.
Hatters boss Nathan Jones was convinced Hylton's 57th-minute effort should not have been chalked off and was left to reflect on what might have been had it been allowed. Jones said: "Look, we have scored a second which is a perfectly legitimate goal, it's onside and that's the thing we're disappointed about. We were excellent second half, but when we have given ourselves such a mountain to climb first half with three poor goals."
Benitez was satisfied with the Magpies' opening 45 minutes, but less so with their second-half showing. He said: "I was really pleased with the first half, the goals that we scored, the way that we were managing the game. Then maybe because we were three goals up, we were a little bit more relaxed in the second half and we gave them the belief that they could score."
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