Newcastle United’s first pre season run out on home soil was completed on a barmy summers evening at the Keepmoat Stadium against League 1’s Doncaster Rovers. After Saturday’s comfortable 6-0 win v Bohemians, Rafa Benitez started the game with a relatively strong XI and gave a run out to Adam Armstrong up front, playing as a foil to Aleksander Mitrovic. All chatter pre game was about the last minute inclusion of United’s want away pair of Gini Wijnaldum and Florian Thauvin in the match day squad. The former being told he had to travel despite having already agreed terms on a yet to be finalised £25m move to Liverpool.
Newcastle were slow and lumbering in the first 10 minutes and none more so than newcomer Matz Sels. The nervy Belgian keeper tried to dink a ball over an advancing John Marquis only to come unstuck and clumsily bundle the Rovers player to the floor. Andy Williams stepped up and calmly dispatched the resulting penalty and groans of “Here we go again” were heard from the 1500+ Geordies who had made the trip to Yorkshire.
Apart from a decent save from an Armstrong chance and a turn and shot by Mitrovic the remainder of the first half passed without much excitement. Armstrong was busy and constantly ran the channels without being picked out by his team mates. Mitrovic on the other hand seemed immobile and more concerned with annoying the Doncaster centre half than actually having an impact on the game. With the game coasting to half time at 1-0 United took their eye off the ball and allowed an unchallenged header to be looped back into the danger zone and Williams nodded in his second. Defensive lapses like that were a hallmark of Newcastle’s play last season and while results aren’t hugely important in pre season, performances and organisation are.
Wholesale changes at half time saw Ayoze Perez, Jesus Gamez, Jamie Sterry, Yoan Gouffran, Paul Dummett, Marcus Gayle and Isaac Hayden all introduced and United instantly looked quicker and stronger. Hayden tested the Rovers keeper early on and few minutes later his deflected effort looped into the Doncaster net to make it 2-1. Hayden looked confident and sharp and his touch, passing and commitment were pleasing on the eye. He was arguably the best player in black and white until he dropped into defence to cover the departing Chancel Mbemba.
Wijnaldum and Thauvin both took to the field to mixed receptions while the sparky partnership of Perez and Gamez caused problems on the United left, the two combining to create a chance for Perez which struck the foot of the post. Yoan Gouffran should have levelled but instead blazed over from three yards out and the game looked to be getting away from NUFC. However, In the 89th minute some decent football found Perez in space and his calm finish spared our blushes.
Newcastle United: Sels, Janmaat (Sterry 46), Mbemba (Saivet 67), Lascelles (Gámez 46), Anita (Dummett 46), Shelvey (Wijnaldum 79), Colback (Hayden 46), Ritchie (Gouffran 46), Armstrong (Thauvin 62), Aarons (Perez 46), Mitrovic (Gayle 46).
Subs Not Used: Darlow, Tiote.
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