Newcastle United finished their pre season campaign with a 3-2 win against Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem at St James’ Park this afternoon.
in stark contrast to last seasons toil in the States this pre league campaign has been an undoubted success, despite the deliberately relentless nature of the fixture list in preparation for the tough weekend / midweek schedule ahead.
Rafa will also have learned a great deal about his players both in terms of their resilience when faced with disruptive travel and game preparation and in their appetite to be part of what will hopefully be a successful campaign. No-one typifies the spirit required in the NUFC camp these days than Jamaal Lascelles, who once more captained the side even though several more senior players also started the game, including a first start for ex Blackburn captain Grant Hanley.
STARTING XI: Sels, Janmaat (Sterry, 74), Hanley (Gamez, 62), Lascelles (c), Dummett, Hayden (Saivet, 74), Colback (Shelvey, 62), Anita (Gouffran, 74), Perez (Armstrong, 62), Ritchie (Aarons, 62), Gayle (Mitrovic, 74)
Newcastle, playing in their second strip (released on Monday), started in equally smart fashion in what would be a pulsating first half for the hosts. Having dominated for long spells early on the opening goal would come after 22 minutes when Ritchie seized on a loose ball on the left to drive a ball across goal, only to see his cross (let’s assume it wasn’t a mishit shot) cannon off Leerdam in the Vitesse defence and into his own goal to make it 1-0 Newcastle United.
In front of a sparse crowd of around twenty thousand the home side would then double their advantage after fine work from Janmaat and then Perez, who was unlucky not to have opened the scoring himself earlier, breaking swiftly forward before the ball broke kindly to Gayle to slot home after a smart turn. The Gayle goal typical of a poachers instinct when faced with the options of squaring the ball for a certain ‘tap in’ or taking on the more difficult strike himself. We don’t mind that one bit, especially when it results in the net bulging.
And before half time it was 3-0, with Perez again justifying his place in the starting line up, this time ahead of Aarons in what looked like a 4-3-3, as he drifted past one man before a lovely drop of the shoulder and an exquisite dink into the box teeing up a headed chance that not even Colback could pass up.
Into the second half and Vitesse would come out all guns blazing and threatened to claw back the full three goal deficit after first getting a goal back from Nathan (on loan from Chelsea) and then scoring a second following a poor clearance by Newcastle to let Kashia score on 61 minutes.
A raft of substitutions unsettled the game enough for both sides to lose their way a little after that and whilst chances would go a begging at both ends, most notably for substitute Mitrovic for Newcastle, the game would ultimately stay as a 3-2 win for Newcastle United.
So eleven unbeaten now for Newcastle from last season and into this pre season. Long may that run continue.
For now it is all focus on Fulham, and whilst the impending return of Sissoko this week will cause the usual furore as will noise on both outgoings and incomings, the boss and the lads must and will be focussed on staring the season well at the seasons curtain raiser on Friday with a league trip to Craven Cottage.
The real work starts now, and I for one cannot wait.
HOWAY THE LADS