Rafa Benitez keeps sights set on promotion despite Newcastle’s FA Cup progression

Rafa Benitez has warned Newcastle’s supporters that the attempt to get the club promoted will take priority over the FA Cup.

Newcastle reached the fourth round of the competition for the first time in five seasons with a three-one win against Birmingham at St James’ Park in front of a crowd of almost 35,000.

They now face Oxford as they bid for a place in the last 16 for the first time since 2006, but Benitez, who made eight changes to his side, revealed he will continue to save players for the push to get the club back into the Premier League.

The Spaniard gave debuts to three youngsters, Dan Barlaser, Yasin Ben El-Mhanni and Stuart Finlay, and used a further five squad members, including Check Tiote, for the win against Birmingham.

“I don’t want to lie,” he said. “We will use the squad and be sure to protect players and have no risk. We will try to use the squad and go as far as we can but we have so many games in the league it is important to have players ready without taking a risk.

“We will try to win against Oxford if we can do it. It is a tough competition in England, it is always difficult. We will try to go through. When you play against any team in this stage of the competition at home, it has to be difficult.

“I said in the press conference before the game our fans have been amazing in the whole season. The replay of the FA Cup to have 35,000 means how good they are and how important it is for them. We will try to give them something. My idea is to try and win every game, it does not matter which competition.”

Two goals from Matt Ritchie and a fine strike from Yoan Gouffran were enough to put Newcastle through. Jonjo Shelvey, returning after a five game suspension, created all three and Benitez added: “It is always important to have numbers in terms of players but especially someone like him who has quality and can pass the ball and make the others play.

“It is a big boost for us to see Jonjo dictating the tempo of the game. He was training really well. He needed to play for his match fitness. He will show in the next games how important he is.”

Birmingham, who managed their lone reply through David Cotterill, have now not won in seven games under Gianfranco Zola.

“Yes, its not pleasant for sure,” he said. ”I keep saying a lot of things are happening. At the end of the day it has been too long. This is the disappointing bit.

“I’ve been long in football to understand when something is progressing and it won’t be long before this team is winning a lot of games.”

source: footballroar

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