LONDON • Protests against owner Mike Ashley, persistent rumours of dressing room unrest and no wins in three English Premier League games. To say it has been a miserable start to Newcastle's campaign would be an understatement.
And things took another turn for the worse when late drama led to the Magpies slumping to a 3-1 defeat at Championship side Nottingham Forest to crash out of the League Cup in the second round.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez had been fiercely criticised for his negative approach in 2-1 loss to Chelsea last Sunday, leaving his side with just one point in the league table.
He made seven changes for Wednesday's trip to the City Ground, but those coming in did their case little good as Daryl Murphy headed the hosts in front inside two minutes.
That looked like being enough for Forest, until Salomon Rondon, on loan from West Bromwich, registered his first Newcastle goal with practically the visitors' first decent chance two minutes into stoppage time.
But Forest were not to be denied as Matty Cash and Gil Dias struck in the allocated six added minutes to reach the last 32.
"I don't agree that Forest were the better team and I'm not concerned by how we played," said a defiant Benitez. "We did not create many chances so we need to improve in attack and keep working hard. It's a long season, we knew it was going to be hard but we have confidence in ourselves."
There was no such strife for Premier League high-fliers Everton and Watford, who continued their unbeaten starts to the season with victories over second-tier sides Rotherham and Reading.
Everton got the job done, 3-1 at Goodison Park, through Gylfi Sigurdsson and a double from Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Watford, on three wins from three matches, are joint-leaders with three other clubs in England's top flight, and they displayed their strength in depth at Reading. The Hornets made 11 changes and still won 2-0 at the Madejski Stadium.
Isaac Success and Domingos Quina's goal on his debut ensured they had a comfortable evening.