Newcastle United cruised to an eay win over Sporting Lokeren but there were a couple of notable absentees from the squad.

United scored all four goals (watch them here) in the opening 48 minutes and after the game Rafa Benitez explained the absence of both Matt Ritchie and Grant Hanley.

The Newcastle boss said ‘it is nothing’ with Matt Ritchie and expects him to be fine in a ‘couple of days’, indicating that the winger should be back for the friendly at Southend on Tuesday night.

As for his sixth signing of the season, Grant Hanley, Rafa says that the defender needs to improve his fitness before he can become involved in match situations.

Whilst the transfer was dragging on, Hanley played no part in any of Blackburn friendlies with a knee injury the official reason, though it was generally believed the player was simply not being risked with a move imminent.

Rafa Benitez simply says the latest signing ‘has been some time without training with the team properly’, so whether that does mean there has been an injury is unclear.

At best you would imagine Grant Hanley might get some minutes as a substitute at Southend on Tuesday night, with next Saturday’s home match against Vitesse Arnhem looking a better bet for him to get some significant time on the pitch.

Everything seemingly pointing at the minute to Jamaal Lascelles and Chancel Mbemba starting the season at Fulham in 12 days time as the centre-back pairing.

Rafa Benitez talking to NUFC TV:

“Grant Hanley has just arrived and he needs to improve his fitness.

“He has been some time without training with the team properly.

Matt Ritchie – it is nothing. 

“He well be fine in a couple of days.”