This was the most one-sided encounter in the famous old competition since, well, March, when Blues were thumped 7-0 at home by Liverpool. That memory wasn't exactly erased, but was certainly put to the back of the mind after goals from Gary McSheffrey, Nolberto Solano (yes, he used to play for Villa), Bruno N'Gotty (yes, he's been found), Seb Larsson and DJ Campbell saw Blues cruise past their Premiership opponents.
Now, it was a wet, cold Wednesday night and the game was on terrestrial TV - the temptation was to not bother making the trip. I feel I owe my dedicated band of about four readers more than that though, so I booked half a day's holiday and made the trip north, especially for you. You know it's bloody cold in Newcastle when the locals cover their flesh up and wear jumpers underneath their replica shirts - there wasn't a bare forearm on view.
Steve Bruce made three enforced changes from the team that let Newcastle draw against them in the first game at St Andrews. Martin Taylor replaced the suspended Radhi Jaidi, Cameron Jerome came in for the injured Nicklas Bendtner, whilst Bruno N'Gotty was let out of the Jamie Clapham Memorial Cupboard for one night to play at right-back, taking the injured Stephen Kelly's place. Newcastle have lots of injuries (in case you haven't heard…) and lined up with the same team (still with plenty of good players) who had won superbly at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
During the first game the travelling Geordies has rejoiced in singing about the empty seats around St Andrews. Clearly many Newcastle fans didn't realise that there was a replay - they probably presumed they'd won the first game, seeing as the world revolves around them - and there were approximately 26,000 empty seats (more than there'd been at St Andrews) in their big, bland, grey stadium as the teams met again. (There were thousands more about 80 minutes into the game, but on to that later.)
Blues started well and were ahead after only 5 minutes through McSheffrey. If David Beckham is worthy of receiving £500,000 a week, then it's no exaggeration to say that McSheffrey is worth £17,000,000 a week - he was fantastic tonight. Anyway, after a good Blues move a Larsson cross found its way to McSheffrey who cut back onto his right foot, leaving Solano on his backside in the process, and slammed the ball past Shay Given.
Blues went on to dominate the first half - a period of ten minutes when they kept giving the ball away just after the half hour aside - and Newcastle struggled to cope with their pace, power and, wait for it… excellent football. Yes, I know - I'm not sure what happened either. Anyway, Blues were impressive during the first half. Kieron Dyer had been a big influence on the first game, so Damien Johnson followed him more closely than the Hollywood paparazzi follow Britney Spears on a tour of LA's discotheques, whilst McSheffrey, Campbell and Cameron Jerome were all real threats up front.
As half-time approached, the only disappointment for the travelling 300 or so Blues fans was that they weren't several goals ahead. McSheffrey had forced Given into a fine save from a free-kick, the Irish 'keeper had also denied Jerome after good/fortuitous work from Campbell, before Jerome completely missed the ball at the far post after a great cross from Newcastle's tormentor-in-chief, McSheffrey. Newcastle's back four looked about as comfortable as Jade Goody speaking at an anti-racism rally. At the other end Dyer shot wide when already flagged for offside, and Blues dealt with the Obafemi Martins threat pretty well.
Jerome atoned for his misses moments before the break with a fine powerful run down the right. He got the better of Peter Ramage, cut inside and played an excellent ball across the face of the goal towards Campbell. Unfortunately for Campbell, Solano wanted it that little bit more, so he slid in and knocked the ball into the back of the net - much to the delight of the Blues fans who sang his name at half-time. The scoreline reflected the play a little more as it should have done now. 2-0 away at Newcastle at half-time? It couldn't get any better, could it?
Newcastle raised their game slightly at the start of the second half, and within 10 minutes had struck back through James Milner - the second ex-Villa player to get his name on the scoresheet. Unlike Solano, he did it at the end he was supposed to and beat Maik Taylor with a fine drive. This got the half-empty stadium slightly more interested that previously, but that only last for a matter of seconds before the game turned well and truly in Blues' favour…
Campbell's pace and persistence again paid dividends as he found himself through on goal. Remarkably similarly to Jaidi's sending off for a foul on Martins in the first game, Steven Taylor hauled down the striker who was one-on-one with the 'keeper on the edge of the box, the referee brandished a red card and the team who thought they were back in it were suddenly down to ten men.
Larsson stepped up to take the resulting free-kick. I can only assume that he scores them for fun in training, because I've never seen him take anything like a good one during a match. True to form, he hit the wall before the ball rebounded to Blues' right-back N'Gotty who from an angle slammed the ball side-footed into the far corner of Given's net - it was the finish of a top class striker, let alone a centre-half who hasn't played for 4 months and is thrown back in at right-back. N'Gotty, in fairness, did play that position at Bolton on occasions, and he was quite superb tonight - a fact made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was more out of favour than Julian Gray recently. His positioning and distribution were fantastic, and he could prove to be quite a find in that position.
Newcastle toiled but got nowhere - Martins had his token shot with no backlift straight at Taylor - whilst Blues looked to hit the depleted numbers on the break. Campbell was denied by Given as Newcastle faded. At one point Nicky Butt got on the ball, and I had seriously forgotten that the former Blues midfielder and man who everyone is talking about as if he's a world-beater again was actually playing. He was more anonymous than an Iraqi official with a camera phone at an execution.
As the game neared it's conclusion Blues decided to step up a gear and tear Newcastle apart, just to really humiliate them. A fine move saw Jerome play a sublime through ball to Larsson, who's much better running onto things than taking free-kicks. The young Swede duly fired the ball past Given to make it 4-1, taking a knock that meant he had to hobble off later in the process.
Blues pressed for a fifth, and a Fabrice Muamba drive was blocked when it looked destined for the back of Given's net. The jubilant Blues fans didn't have to wait long for it to be 5-1, however, as Neil Kilkenny (on for McSheffrey) threaded a fine ball through to Campbell who got the goal he deserved with a fine flicked finish past Given, who must have wanted to go home by now. Most of the self-proclaimed best fans in the world had already done so, however - after the fourth goal about 10,000 left, and the majority of the rest went after Campbell's strike.
The game was played out to the Blues fans singing "5-1 to the empty seats" in response to the Geordie chants of 10 days ago - fitting that it was sung to about 51,692 empty seats. On the way out the eight Newcastle fans who had stayed until the end sang things such as "Sack the board!" and "This is embarrassing!", which, to be honest, only served to heighten my enjoyment of the evening. No doubt there'll be 1,000 topless, unemployed Geordies twirling their free scarves in protest outside that gate they always gather outside as you're reading this now.
So, a fantastic night all round. Following such performances it's hard to pick out individual players, as they were all superb, but I'd say that McSheffrey, Jerome and Campbell all embarrassed supposed 'better players' from a higher division, whilst N'Gotty's display actually shocked me - he was magnificent. I wasn't shocked in him as a player, as I don't think he ever did that much wrong, but for anyone to come back from the wilderness as he did, play as he did and in a position he'd never played in for the club, well, bloody hell. And that goal…
The FA Cup remains secondary to the league, but a performance like this can only serve to give the players confidence - especially as they hadn't won for a few games prior to this. Blues were magnificent, and that's not a word I use too much (apart from in the above paragraph), and Newcastle fans wouldn't argue about the scoreline, I'm sure - it could well have been more. People shouldn't get carried away, as it's just a one-off game and means not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but what a one-off match - one that people will talk about for years and years to come, and rightly so.