Dubravka saves Newcastle’s season in FA Cup penalty shootout at Blackburn

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Martin Dubravka;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Martin Dubravka</a> receives congratlations from his teammates after his decisive save in the shootout.</span><span>Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images</span>

Glory for Martin Dubravka, whose save in the shootout took ­Newcastle through, and heartache for Dominic Hyam, who saw his penalty turned on to the goalkeeper’s right post, as the count ended 4-3 to the visitors.

This meant Anthony ­Gordon’s kick was decisive and so Blackburn were left rueful as they could have gone through in regulation time, being the better side technically and far more energetic than Eddie Howe’s weary team.

Related: Abdul Fatawu’s extra-time thunderbolt fires Leicester past Bournemouth

“There is only one emotion and that is relief,” Newcastle’s manager said. “We are delighted to be in the hat for the next round.”

Victory allows dreams of a Cup ­triumph to continue and is the result the manager craved amid scrutiny of his long‑term job prospects.

“A lot was riding on today’s outcome,” Howe said. “A big moment in our season. One more win [in the competition] and we are at Wembley [for the semi-finals].”

This was the finest display of John Eustace’s Rovers tenure, in a fifth game in charge. “Very proud of the effort and the supporters – they were awesome,” he said.

“Great to see a full house at Ewood. We were playing against a top Premier League team and you could see that we could hurt them.”

The contest took flight towards the end. First, Rovers were going out ­following Gordon’s 71st-minute strike. Then, Eustace’s feisty team moved downfield and Sammie Szmodics – who missed his spot‑kick in the shootout – blazed home for a sixth goal in the competition.

Cue pandemonium among the home support and silence from the 7,000 fans who had journeyed from the north-east for a kick‑off delayed by 15 minutes to ensure all could enter.

Howe had acted following the 4-1 trouncing at Arsenal on ­Saturday by drafting in Dubravka, Dan Burn, Jacob Murphy, Joe Willock and Jamaal Lascelles, the latter the beneficiary of Sven Botman’s injury.

Eustace characterised this as a free hit in which his players could go at their visitors. They did. Szmodics was twice put in as the raucous home crowd roared their men on.

Howe wanted a reaction to defeat at Arsenal and Kieran Trippier got one (being a former Burnley defender) when taking a short corner. There was a snap, too, in the Bruno Guimarães tackle that, later, won the ball but ­perhaps adrenaline surged as his pass to Willock as he drove into the area was overhit.

Newcastle were in a battle staged mainly in midfield. There, John Buckley’s calm and touch led Rovers’ effort. It was Buckley who created the best moment yet: on padding forward he switched play left to Szmodics: the goal gaped but he missed, to his anguish and United’s relief.

The same emotions were felt, again, when Buckley mugged the lethargic Sean Longstaff. He tapped to Szmodics who fed Tyrhys Dolan. On pulling the trigger the in-running Szmodics missed the finish because of the impressive Dubravka’s save. From the corner the No 8 let fly at long range but Dubravka held the ball.

Newcastle lacked fluidity and control. Anything bright came via the darting Gordon but he was a lone figure. The lowest ranked remaining side were an awkward proposition of physicality and skill for Howe’s unit.

As the half closed Szmodics hurtled through and hit a blistering shot that tingled Dubravka’s fingertips. Newcastle had struggled to make any series of passes and were clumsy.

The hosts illustrated how to prosper in a rapid sequence that had the livewire Szmodics in. He twisted, possession went right and to Buckley, who caused Dubravka to dive low and right to make a latest intervention.

It was too easy for Rovers to hammer through Newcastle which pointed to how Guimarães, Longstaff and ­Willock were given a chasing in midfield and showed up the cost of Sandro Tonali’s gambling suspension until August. And when, at last, Newcastle threatened in a goalmouth scramble no one in green – including Lascelles with his head – could poke the ball home.

Off went Alex Isak, Murphy and Willock as Howe turned to Miguel Almirón, Lewis Miley, Harvey Barnes, who also missed his penalty. Newcastle felt the benefit of the changes as Gordon ran in and was thwarted by Aynsley Pears. Not the next time, though. But after Gordon did beat Pears, Newcastle were unable to hang on as ­Szmodics forced the extra period ahead of the penalties.

Before kick‑off Rovers supplied fairy cakes decorated with club ­colours and the legend “Shearer 9” to the media. When Gordon struck the decisive penalty in the shootout the striker who fired them to the 1994‑95 Premier League title had witnessed his beloved United sneak through to the last eight of the FA Cup.