Newcastle United continued their intense preseason run of fixtures with an away game at Roots Hall, home of Southend United, tonight.
The United boss and coaching staff had planned this preseason carefully to replicate the relentless nature of the Championship season ahead with this being the 4th game in just under two weeks.
Rafa would name just three changes from the team that was so successful against Lokeren last weekend with Darlow in for Sels, Dummett in for the suspended Gamez whilst Shelvey would get the nod over Colback in midfield. Lascelles would once more captain the side. There would also be a place on the bench for new boy Grant Hanley whilst Tiote would not even travel as rumours of a big money move to a side in the UAE mounted and Ritchie was again missing through injury.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Janmaat (Sterry, 62), Mbemba (Hanley, 62), Lascelles (c), Dummett, Hayden (Colback, 62), Anita (Thauvin, 79), Shelvey (Saivet, 73), Perez (Mitrovic, 73), Gayle (Armstrong, 62), Aarons (Gouffran, 62).
The game would have a scrappy opening period with Shelvey making his early mark with a decent run and later forcing a great save from Oxley. At the other end Mbemba would get this wires crossed with Darlow to show some uncertainty in the Newcastle defence.
Interestingly Perez would continue to take command of set pieces and having delivered an assist to Janmaat's goal last weekend he would be prominent in taking Newcastle’s early corners with varying results.
Newcastle would have the lions share of possession early on, bossing the games with only fleeting chances for the hosts, but not creating an awful lot of their own, with only a ‘grass cutter’ of a shot from Hayden causing even a moments panic for ‘pinky’ in the Southend goal.
A good spell of pressure just before half time would see Shelvey and his team mates force Southend into conceding a succession of corners but to no avail, whilst a lay off from Shelvey to Gayle would also see his effort come to nothing as the sides would go in at the break 0-0. Despite the number of goals scored pre season Newcastle still look short of some real guile in midfield, that something extra special even at this level (maybe Ritchie will give the bit spark), and someone who just looks like they will score a bucket load (even if Perez and Gayle have looked lively so far). And whilst Sissoko, no matter what you think of him, could well be off he would certainly provide that bit spark. More recruitment is required in strength and depth.
There would be no changes at the break as further indication that Rafa was finally settling on something close to the team that would start the season away for Fulham in just over a weeks time.
Whatever was said at half time did the trick, although form the most unlikely source. A Vernon Anita 20 yard drive would catch everyone off guard and fly past the keeper into the far corner of the Oxley’s goal. A strike that any of our forwards would have been very proud of.
The game would settle down again with few chances with the next significant action being the introduction of Hanley on 62 minutes sporting the number 5 along with a number of other changes. Shelvey would continue to look dangerous forcing the Southend keeper into action again before he was eventually also withdrawn from the action on 73 minutes.
On a day of unlikely scorers the Newcastle United second goal would fall to Gouffran of all people. Another lovely goal, this time darting into the box before unleashing an unstoppable left foot shot low into the bottom corner. What is going on……
Rafa can even get the Gouf on fire!
There was time for Darlow to pull off a brilliant save before full time but that would be that. Another work out. Not particularly impressive, but another win and another clean sheet. Better that way around that's for sure.
Vitesse next on Saturday.