In the end, no matter how much pressure you think you can absorb, it always tends to get to you in the end as Bournemouth were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by an Adam Smith own goal.
In his first game as permanent manager, Gary O’Neil’s side were well coached, organized and defended with the kind of resilience they will need if they are to stay in the Premier League, but they have also been totally dominated by Newcastle United.
From the first whistle to the last, it was one-way traffic, the Magpies camped inside their half, launching attack after attack, only to keep hitting brick walls or missing the kind of chances simple that they will have to take if they want to continue to challenge at the top of the table.
Most people in Tyneside spent most of the World Cup wondering how Newcastle would restart the season. Far less important to most black and white minds than whether Eddie Howe could continue to lead his side to a European spot next season is England’s quarter-final exit at the hands of France.
In such brilliant form before attention turned to third-placed Qatar in the Championship and winners of Chelsea in the last game at St James’ Park in November, the interruption threatened to dampen their momentum more than most.
Howe had spent most of his time watching videos of Newcastle’s Premier League opponents, barely taking a few days off before returning to work. He knew it was a tricky test, that defeat in the competition that offered the most realistic chance of silverware in his first full season could derail their campaign, but his players, as they had against Crystal Palace in the previous round have pretty much got the job done. They weren’t at their best, but in the end they were still far too good for Bournemouth, whose main achievement of the evening was to keep the score respectable.
Newcastle was like a rock rolling down a snowy hill. They started off slow and the threat to Bournemouth was low, but they picked up speed and power until they looked like a big boulder that threatened to smash their opponents and leave them scattered in a heap.
The Cherries held on as long as they could, but they were in survival mode from the first whistle.
Callum Wilson had a goal ruled out for offside after Joe Willock touched the ball in an offside position in the build-up before slotting a difficult, leaning back header over the crossbar from a Kieran cross Tripper.
Trippier also went close with a free kick that failed to dive enough to fall under the crossbar and there was some terrible decision making from Sean Longstaff too. Possession gifted just outside the area by a bad Bournemouth pass, he immediately looked to shoot, a wild effort sliced into the Gallowgate End with Callum Wilson in space in front of him and Miguel Almiron much better placed to his right .
Bournemouth were pinned down and unable to relieve the pressure, Fabian Schar also went close after having space and time to shoot from 25 yards before failing to hit a cross at the far post. Wilson caught a volley from another set piece superbly, but again couldn’t get it on target.
The worst miss came in first-half stoppage time, as a brilliant cross from Dan Burn found Almiron, unmarked at the far post, inside the penalty area with half of goal and he failed to make a proper connection with a side-footed finish, the ball scuffed backwards away from goal and Bournemouth managed to clear.
So it continued after the break, with Schar missing Trippier’s free-kick at the near post when he looked certain to score, then came Bournemouth’s chance, Kieffer Moore, unmarked, in the middle of the box but his header crashed into the billboards rather than the back of the net.
It might have secured the smash and grab victory that O’Neil had set his side up, but minutes later Newcastle got the goal they deserved as Smith managed to place his header on the center of Trippier past Wilson, but only to then send past his keeper Mark Travers and into the far corner. Newcastle had pretty much deserved the lucky share but still needed a great save from Nick Pope on the death to deny Dominic Solanke after a fine pass from Marcos Senesi.