Newcastle 3 Norwich 0 – NUFC improve with ASM to beat relegation rivals in final warm up
Newcastle 3 Norwich 0 – Saturday 7 August 2pm
After the opening 45 minutes, this was looking like a continuation of some pretty poor to average pre-season friendly form.
Wins against Doncaster and Burton, but a fortunate draw with Rotherham and defeats to Burnley and sixth tier York.
Promoted Norwich starting by far the better and stretching Newcastle early on, the visitors passing the ball with purpose and looking a lot sharper than their hosts.
Aarons was presented with a very decent chance but his effort was deflected wide, then a Lees-Melou shot from distance was straight at Freddie Woodman.
The Newcastle keeper then produced an excellent save from Lees-Melou, this time the Norwich player catching his shot on the volley but denied by Woodman.
United did finally get up to pace and start to stifle Norwich, though still unable to provide any real threat going the other way.
Just before half-time though, a flowing Norwich move ending with a ball played to Dowell, Newcastle though blocking that effort to keep the game goalless at half-time.
The introduction of Allan Saint-Maximin (along with Fraser and Shelvey) after the break brought a predictable lift for those in the stands.
ASM at last getting Newcastle on the front foot and within ten minutes United were ahead, Callum Wilson doing well to hold the ball up and Matt Ritchie getting into the box to score. Ritchie celebrating with a trademark hoof of the corner flag.
Despite the usual friendly countless second half substitutions for the two sides, Newcastle continued their improved form since the break. A smart ball from Ryan Fraser releasing Dwight Gayle who produced a very cool and calm finish as he bent the ball around and beyond Tim Krul, 2-0 with 16 minutes left on the clock.
Manquillo was getting his first pre-season football of the summer and after only eight minutes on the pitch, the Spaniard did really well down the right side and crossed for Gayle, who produced a smart first time finish to complete the scoring with his second goal.
As always with friendlies, difficult to know what to take from them, though winning 3-0 is definitely preferred to losing by a similar scoreline.
Norwich have though been badly hit due to covid and following a period of self-isolation, they welcomed back Teemu Pukki to the subs bench.
However, the Canaries were still missing Jordan Hugill, Grant Hanley, Bali Mumba, Milot Rashica, Onel Hernandez and Przemyslaw Placheta, all still serving the final days of their covid isolation periods.
In addition, their key midfielder Todd Cantwell and Sam Byram are on the injury list.
Reality as well is that Norwich are yet again the bookies’ favourites to go down, having spent three of the last eight seasons in the Premier League and relegated in all three.
As for Newcastle United, Freddie Woodman looks set to start the season in goal and had a confidence boosting clean sheet.
Similarly, great to see Dwight Gayle get a couple of goals to boost his confidence, I have a feeling we may be relying on him a lot this season, the only viable alternative to Callum Wilson up front and maybe Gayle even starting against West Ham unless Wilson is totally happy with his fitness after a hamstring problem kept him out of training and recent friendlies.
Allan Saint-Maximin showed yet again that he is irreplaceable in this squad when it comes down to having something to unsettle the opposition and make space and chances for others. Fingers crossed he is fully recovered from the mystery ‘illness’ that has seen him miss the last three friendlies and a big chunk of training.
Next weekend the real action starts and with still no new signings, we all need to hope that the better quality players in this Newcastle squad stay fit and well.
Newcastle 3 Norwich 0
Ritchie 55, Gayle 74, 88
Woodman, Murphy (Manquillo 80), Krafth (Schar 66), Fernandez (Lascelles 66), Clark (Watts 83), Ritchie (Lewis 66), Hayden (Hendrick 66), S Longstaff (Shelvey 46), Almiron (Fraser 46), Joelinton (Saint-Maximin 46), Wilson (Gayle 66)
Gillespie, M Longstaff, Langley
Newcastle United pre-season friendlies:
Sunday 18 July – York City 1 Newcastle 0
Sunday 18 July Harrogate Town 2 Newcastle 1 (This was originally a first team fixture with some Under 23 added but it became solely a Under 23 NUFC players after Karl Darlow tested positive for Covid and first team and Under 23s had to be kept apart)
Friday 23 July – Doncaster 2 Newcastle 3
Tuesday 27 July – Rotherham 1 Newcastle 1
Friday 30 July – Burton 0 Newcastle 2
Tuesday 3 August – Burnley 1 Newcastle 0
Saturday 7 August – Newcastle 3 Norwich 0
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