Steve Bruce was left floundering for positives after Newcastle narrowly avoided another FA Cup calamity with a 1-1 draw at League One Rochdale on Saturday.
The Magpies left Spotland with the derision of around 4,000 visiting supporters ringing in their ears after 40-year-old Aaron Wilbraham snatched a late and well-deserved equaliser for the home side.
But so far has the six-time winners’ knockout stock fallen – they have not reached the fifth round once since Mike Ashley took over as owner in 2007 – Bruce acknowledged that earning a replay might almost qualify as a success.
Bridling at suggestions that given the extent of his side’s injury list he might almost have preferred the hosts to complete the job, Bruce insisted: “Of course I would rather have a replay.
“We are in the hat and we haven’t been in the hat for a few years. We’ve got a replay to face and some might need a game after coming back from injury so it’s not a bad thing.
“I’ve always said the FA Cup can provide us with another opportunity, and we’ve got another game.”
Bruce’s men almost did not have to face the replay predicament after Oliver Rathbone, who had come close on three previous occasions, rolled a glorious chance to win the game just wide in the final minute.
Newcastle had dominated the opening period with Miguel Almiron sweeping them ahead and strike partner Joelinton missing a series of chances, but changes by Dale boss Brian Barry-Murphy reaped rewards as they stormed back to level through Wilbraham.
Bruce had stuck to his intention to play his strongest possible side for the tie, despite a lengthening injury list to which Yoshinori Muto and goalscorer Almiron look to have been added.
Nevertheless Bruce is hoping for better news ahead of next weekend’s Premier League clash with Wolves, with Allan Saint-Maximin, Ciaran Clark, Jamaal Lascelles and Paul Dummett all pushing to return.
“We hope we can get some bodies back,” added Bruce. “We need four or five back, of course.
“It’s been as bad as I’ve known, but it is what it is and we have to crack on and keep going with it.”
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