Hearts (a) Friendly
De Jong took a short pass from Jamaal Lascelles deep in the Newcastle half and
after turning smartly, threaded a perfect through ball to the advancing Dwight
Gayle. United's number 9 sprinted away from a quartet of defenders before
finishing smoothly past home goalkeeper Jack Hamilton from 12 yards.
advanced following a throw-in down their left midway in the Newcastle half,
Jamie Walker benefiting from a favourable ricochet before Ismal picked up
possession and pinged a pass forward to Cole Stockton in the area.
25 mins Jonjo Shelvey's in-swinging corner from the left that fell perfectly for Dwight Gayle to nod in from point blank range towards the back post, the striker getting ahead of both Mo Diame and Ashley Smith-Brown, while old boy Aaron Hughes missed his initial clearing header. 2-1
Jambos 1 Magpies 2
Trackie Mag (Photo: Stephen Dobson)
Rafa Benitez spoke to the official
website after the game:
"You need to change players and the
game stops and starts. The second half is always more difficult but the second
half was good and quite entertaining.
"The team was composed. We needed to score goals and we did it. We knew what we had to do for the whole game.”
On Florian Lejeune:
"He was winning some headers which we were expecting. On the ball he was good - he is another good addition."
On Dwight Gayle:
"It was really good for him and also
for the team, when you score early it gives you more confidence.”
"When the whole squad is away you have time to stay together.
"You have training sessions in the morning and afternoon but you have time all together and have activities, so we can try to improve the understanding between players and the team spirit.”
"Our plan is for us to become a good side too, but we’re in the middle of work to get us there, so there were some really positive moments to go along with it.
"If anyone was unsure, we now know things are changing and growing (at Tynecastle), and it means we have the strange situation of four away games to start the season.
"We need to be excited by the challenge of getting through those games, so we can fill this place when we get to the end of that run of games.
"I’ve been really pleased by the make up of the games we’ve played. We had to fit it into a shorter period of time, but we picked the correct fixtures and we’re now more ready for competition.
"(Jamie) Walker is a strong character within himself and he’s a real talent who I want to support. He can make real progress. He’s part of my team that’s progressing, and growing, and we want his qualities in the side as he remains part of the team."
Aaron Hughes gets to grips with De Jong
(Photo: Stephen Dobson)
Newcastle began their pre-season fixture programme in Edinburgh on Friday with victoryover their Scottish Premier League hosts at Tynecastle. However that success was achieved against a backdrop of what may justifiably called apprehension as to the upcoming season holds for us.
It's tempting to use this three-sided venue as a metaphor for the task of rebuilding that Rafa Benitez faces, but while Tynecastle is a work in progress and proceeding according to plan, it's less certain whether such a black and white blueprint exists - or now resides in a Shirebrook litter bin.
Frustrations in the transfer market and financial concerns have rapidly eroded the feelgood factor that promotion and over 40,000 season tickets sold had generated just a matter of weeks ago - with speculation as to whether our Spanish architect will even remain on the job spreading.
We've been here before of course, with pre-season games habitually accompanied by malcontents off the field expressing their exasperation at seeing the same old faces. From the comparatively polite "give us some dosh" directed at Gordon McKeag (Yeovil away in 1990) to the rather more direct "spend some f*cking money" or "stand up if you hate Kinnear" in more recent years.
While there was nothing in the way of negative chanting from the away section tonight, something verging on bewilderment was evident from conversations with fellow travellers - Rafa's declared intent to act early in the current window a particular source of concern (subsequent confirmation that the manager failed to do any post-match press doing nothing to improve matters).
Sadly, the mood music has echoes of the 2008/09 season that began with Kevin Keegan at the helm before degenerating into open warfare between club and fans. The evidence of 12 months ago proves that there's still time work effectively in this window, but the sheer volume of transfers in both directions means that it's an increasingly forlorn task.
For what it's worth, goalkeeper changes aren't currently top of our agenda.
On the field, both sides contributed to what was an entertaining opening 45 minutes before the threatened rainfall - and a flood of substitutions - inevitably reduced this to a fitness exercise.
Dwight Gayle notched a brace either side of a Jamie Walker strike, while Jambos also missed a spot kick at 1-0 when Esmael Goncalves blasted wildly over. A humdrum second half then almost ended on a high note, with United's only debutant Florian Lejeune heading narrowly wide from a corner.
Clad in their new home kit complete with red numbers (that weren't quite as distinctive as hoped from the back of the stand but better than the previous gold effort), just four of the side that began our title-winning victory over Barnsley were in tonight's starting XI.
Of that quartet, Rob Elliot continued following the continued exclusion of Karl Darlow (who didn't travel as his sale looks inevitable), Chancel Mbemba occupied an unfamiliar right back slot and Christian Atsu played for the first time since signing a permanent deal and having knee surgery.
That left a trim-looking Jonjo Shelvey, who had evidently benefited from his own early pre-season programme and has graduated to a shirt number in the first XI - trading in 12 for the vacant 8.
Games of this nature often see forgotten figures return to action and tonight's notable revivalists were Siem De Jong (exiled in Eindhoven last season) and Rolando Aarons, sidelined since breaking his foot against Cheltenham Town in August - a third successive season decimated by injury.
Shelvey / Aarons (Photos: Stephen Dobson)
De Jong meanwhile completed 75 minutes and contributed an astute assist for the
opener, but we'll hang back on the "like a new signing" cliche for now
if that's OK with you....
Edinburgh-based Mag John Hunt just days
before this game - our condolences to Ellie
and his pals from Diane's & The Golden Rule