An intense week of preparation for the new season was completed today with a trip to Belgian side Lokeren and another thorough workout for the lads.
STARTING XI: Sels (Darlow, 72), Sterry (Gouffran, 63), Lascelles (c) (Dummett, 63), Mbemba (Saivet, 72), Anita (Gamez, 45), Colback (Tiote, 72), Hayden (Shelvey, 45), Janmaat, Aarons (Thauvin, 63), Gayle (Armstong, 63), Perez (Mitrovic, 45)
Newcastle lined up in an unfamiliar 4-3-3 with Sterry and Anita filling the full back positions and Janmaat playing on the right of midfield in place of Ritchie who did not make the squad due to a ‘slight knock’.
Another run out and a 3rd start in a week as captain for Lascelles having taken the armband last weekend in Ireland and midweek at Doncaster. Whilst Hanley did not join up with the squad for this one and could of course be on the shortlist for the captains role, the repeated trust shown in Lascelles would indicate he has both a fantastic chance of maintaining the armband into the season as well as looking Rafa’s first choice centre back right now.
And the young man started this game in his usual solid form with a fantastic sliding interception within the first 5 minutes to stop the hosts from breaking clear.
The opening goal would come form two of United’s young pair up front as, having nutmegged a Lokeren midfielder, Perez fed Aarons down the right who then returned the favour and fed the ball back to Perez to tuck home from close range on 13 minutes.
Lokeren had decent chances both before and after the goal in the opening 30 minutes through Ingi and Rassoul but by the 26th minute NUFC had scored their second and were dominating the game. This time Perez would be the provider, whipping in a great inswinging free kick from the left and watch on as Janmaat out-jumped him man to head back across goal and into the keepers right hand bottom corner.
Newcastle were rampant, and whilst Sels would make one great save after half an hour it was 3-0 on 38 minutes. Perez (rather formally named as Guttierez on the team sheet) AGAIN!
This time a through ball for Gayle was only cleared as far Perez who’s first time hit flew past the stranded keeper from fully 25 yards. And that’s how it stayed until the break, although Aarons would also go close just before the interval.
Just the three changes at the break with Shelvey, Gamez and Mitro all getting the nod. And it didn’t take long for the shaven headed one to get in on the act with a long range effort that would be deflected in for 4-0. More fun in the sunshine for the traveling Geordie faithful.
The games was set in a pattern now with Newcastle looking constantly dangerous and with Lokeren still trying to get something going on the break.
The usual clutch of changes would of course follow with Rafa trying to give as many of his squad some game time as possible, inducing the withdrawal of Lascelles with Shelvey taking the armband in his absence.
Newcastle would come close several times to a fifth goal, with Armstrong unlucky not to convert, but the only other real talking point would be a red card for Gamez, who would get mixed up in a bit of ‘afters’ with Miric resulting in both players seeing red. The ban shouldn’t count at the start of next season (TBC).
Overall then, another very satisfactory day at the office for Rafa and his men, with Perez in particular impressing in the first half. Whether the boss will choose to strengthen his team before next weeks game against Vitesse remains to be seen, but lots of positives today.