By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
A week of defending set-pieces on the training ground lies ahead for Newcastle United's second-string players after two corners proved to be the Magpies' undoing against Manchester United on Monday night.
The Red Devils included the likes of Federico Macheda and Bebe at Whitley Park but rarely troubled the Magpies in open play. However, two dead-balls ended up in the back of the net as United lost 2-1 and saw the visitors climb above them in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League National Group Two table.
So although Reserve Team Manager Willie Donachie was pleased to improve on the 6-3 scoreline in the same fixture last season, he admitted that his side will have to tighten up from corners and free-kicks in the weeks ahead.
"Two goals from set-plays was very disappointing," he told nufc.co.uk after watching Tom Thorpe open the scoring with a free header and Tom Lawrence steal in after another delivery was only half-cleared. "I don't think young players appreciate the importance at both ends of being brave and really sticking your head on it, which is the most important thing.
"Compared to six, it's a massive improvement particularly towards the end with a very young team; once Xisco and Romain (Amalfitano) went off we had a very inexperienced team so it's a great experience for them - it just would have been nice to get a result.
"We'll try to work on it but you can't go out there and do it for them. You still need strong, brave people out there and tonight we had a lot of inexperienced people and they had some big big lads.
"Once Xisco and Romain went off, we didn't have enough leaders to put people into positions and that sort of thing. But it's experience - the main thing is that they learn from it."
Three points could have taken the Magpies top of the table, although in the event Tottenham's win over Southampton kept them in pole position anyway.
And former Manchester City defender Donachie said: "I'd really love to get into the top two or three to play in the top ground after Christmas and that was the plan. But when you lose your two most experienced players, that isn't a help and to give stupid goals away from set-plays isn't a help.
"So at the moment I'm pretty disappointed because I'm always desperate to beat them. I spent a lot of my life Manchester and I'd have loved to have beat them because on paper they're supposed to be the best and I thought tonight we had a real good chance of doing that."
Next up for the under-21s is another game Donachie is determined to win - the Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland on Wearside.
"They'll be the same about us as well," he smiled. "But we desperately want to win that one. It should be a good game at the Stadium of Light, a good stadium with a nice pitch, so if they can't raise their passion for that game they never will."
Donachie confirmed that Amalfitano had picked up an ankle knock and Xisco had suffered a strain which led to them both being substituted.