Newcastle failed to halt their recent slump as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Birmingham in the FA Cup third round.
It was also Blues’ fifth successive game without a win under Gianfranco Zola but they had every reason to be satisfied with a battling performance.
Newcastle failed to take advantage of Daryl Murphy’s early goal, with Birmingham striker Lukas Jutkiewicz notching his ninth of the season late in the first half.
The Magpies, who made eight changes including leaving their leading marksman, Dwight Gayle, on the bench, produced an average performance and in the end were lucky to earn a second chance.
Ominously there were huge gaps in the ground with the exception of the away section, where up to 4,671 United fans crowded the terraces. They strongly voiced their opinion about Birmingham’s meagre support.
The United fans quickly had something to cheer as Murphy put them ahead after only six minutes when he bustled home a right wing corner from Achraf Lazaar.
But the lead was gained at a heavy price as in the same incident Aleksandar Mitrovic sustained a leg injury and had to be carried off the pitch.
At this stage the Magpies were in complete control as they subjected Birmingham to some sustained pressure. Deandre Yedlin had a good opportunity to increase Newcastle’s lead but screwed his shot wide of the post.
Newcastle’s initial supremacy abated as Birmingham’s much changed line-up battled to get back into contention but there was no real penetration, although the North East club’s defence hardly inspired confidence.
Yoan Gouffran, who had taken over from the unfortunate Mitrovic, tested Adam Legzdins with a raking drive but such goalscoring opportunities were limited as the general tempo fell away after a hectic start.
Birmingham’s best attacking move occurred after Stephen Gleeson exposed the space on Newcastle’s left with a defence splitting pass to Diego Fabbrini, who subsequently blazed his low shot well wide of the far post.
Gouffran, however, had the best opportunity of increasing Newcastle’s lead following a mistake by Ryan Shotton. The ball ran through and Legzdins was unable to gain possession allowing Gouffran to muff a narrow angled chance at the near post.
But Birmingham were not out of the game by any means as Che Adams demonstrated with a low shot which had Matz Seis anxiously scrambling to his right to save following a bad mistake by Cheick Tiote.
The result was that Birmingham got back on level terms in the 38th minute. Jonathan Grounds, showing great determination, forced a low pass across the face of Newcastle’s goal and the unmarked Jutkiewicz was on hand to score from close range.
This goal undoubtedly lifted Birmingham, with Fabbrini going on several testing runs to the discomfort of United’s struggling defence.
It was an average Newcastle display which required a fresh injection of new blood, and that was eventually provided when United boss Rafa Benitez sent on Isaac Hayden and Matt Ritchie.
Ritchie very nearly laid on a second goal for Newcastle but his fast low cross was missed by both Murphy and Gouffran.
A rejuvenated Birmingham suddenly realised they had a fine opportunity of winning as Newcastle’s make-shift side ran out of attacking ideas.
Jutkiewicz should have sealed a Birmingham win in the 83rd minute when produced a glancing header from Josh Cogley’s cross and a couple of minutes later he flashed another header wide of the post.