Newcastle continued their pre-season with an away game at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium.
Rafa once again shuffled his pack both before and during the game, although one welcome consistency for most Newcastle fans was the sight of (c) next to Lascelles name in the starting line up.
STARTING XI: Sels, Janmaat (Sterry, 45), Mbemba (Saivet, 67), Lascelles (c) (Dummett, 45), Anita (Gamez, 45), Shelvey (Wijnaldum, 79), Colback (Hayden, 45), Ritchie (Gouffran, 45), Armstrong (Thauvin, 63), Aarons (Perez, 45), Mitrovic (Gayle, 45)
Whilst the starting eleven perhaps starts to give some clues to style and personnel that Rafa will employ when the real hard work begins there was some off the field distraction to mull over, and no, I don’t mean Fat Sam getting the England job.
With much talk of an impending move to Liverpool, Gini Wijnaldum WOULD turn up with the rest of the squad only then to be first left out of the squad altogether, fuelling speculation that a deal was close, then to be added to the bench just before kick off. Talk in the press box before the game was that whilst a fee was pretty much agreed, Rafa has been clear that he won’t take instalments and the deal was currently therefore stuck. Whilst it seems only a matter of time before he does go the decision to make the player travel and continue to represent the club professionally speaks volumes for the boss. And, to be fair to the player, his behaviour has been better than some others we could mention in current and recent times. Surely then, there must be a replacement in the offing?
To the game then…..
Newcastle would start brightly and dominate most of the early exchanges as would be expected against a team who finished 48 places below NUFC at the end of last season and also found themselves were relegated, only in their case to League 2.
The breakthrough would come from Doncaster however as our new keeper Sels would make his first mistake in Newcastle colours as his foul on John Marquis would lead to a successfully converted penalty by Williams.
For Newcastle it wouldn’t be a fair reflection of possession but for Rafa it would perhaps serve as a timely reminder that although his Newcastle side continued to have the lions share of the ball they really would need to make more of the ball when they have it. In truth, most of the possession Newcastle were enjoying was in areas that were not going to hurt the League 2 side, and time and time again in the first half they were guilty of over-playing in key areas. I’m sure the message at half time was about to be ‘not good enough lads, move the ball quicker and get the ball in early’.
Then, with virtually the last touch before half time, Newcastle would fail to deal with a Doncaster corner, and after Butler put his header back across the box, there would be an unmarked and grateful Williams to get his second of the night from close range. Nothing Sels could do about that one!
Newcastle United’s best player in the first half was probably Adam Armstrong who would have a couple of early chances including one just before the Doncaster goal that would bring a good save from Etheridge in the Donny goal. Aarons too would continue to show his good pre season form and looked very lively down Newcastle’s left flank.
Surely the second half would be better, although this is exactly the sort of game the Rafa would have wanted just to see who and how his players were reacting to his teachings.
Time for a change? Yep, seven in fact.
And the changes would make an instant impact First Perez with a fine dummy and turn before hitting high and wide, then Hayden (who moments before had been denied after the keeper saved his drive from distance) would get one back for the Mags as his deflected knock-on from a corner would nestle nicely into the back of the Doncaster net.
Seconds after the restart and this time Armstrong would be denied after racing clear and Newcastle started the second half as they should have played the first.
The 2,252 travelling fans, almost half of the crowd, now had something to cheer and were enjoying what they were seeing.
Efforts form Shelvey and another from Hayden would threaten to bring Newcastle level, then Gayle would see himself ruled offside when faced with a great chance, only for Perez to go one closer and hit the post on 74 minutes. By 79 minutes every outfield player had been subbed, as finally Wijnaldum whould make a cameo for Shelvey.
It was feeling like an equaliser was coming……
And it duly arrive on the stoke of 90 minutes. The lively Perez this time would make no mistake and after a lovely run into the box his shot would fly past Marosi. 2-2. And so it would finish like that.
A good workout again for the Newcastle lads and plenty for Rafa to reflect on.
Out immediate observations are that the missing quality of Sissoko and Wijnaldum really does need to be replaced if they do both go as expected. We need more quality to unlock some of the buses that are bound to be parked next season. There is also a real question about whether a proven 20 goal a season man is needed. Do we have someone who will get those goals, it’s a big risk to go into the season with what we have in our view.
Next up Lokeren.