A first-half header from Stoke’s Sam Clucas condemned Newcastle to defeat in their final pre-season fixture.
Clucas applied the finishing touch to a quick Potters break shortly after the quarter-of-an-hour mark to settle a closely-fought run-out at St. James’ Park. Jacob Murphy twice threatened for Newcastle – and ought to have equalised with his second attempt – while Stoke hit the woodwork after the break.
By the time they return to St. James’ the Magpies will have already got their 2020/21 Premier League campaign underway, with Steve Bruce taking his side to the capital for next weekend’s curtain-raiser at West Ham.
Former Hull midfielder Clucas had already curled a 20-yard free kick over the crossbar by the time he gave Stoke a 17th-minute lead. It was a well worked goal from the Potters’ perspective, forward pair Lee Gregory and Sam Vokes both playing their part in sparking the move after a Magpies attack down the right broke down. Nick Powell played Tommy Smith down the visitors’ own right flank, and the full back put the ball on a plate for Clucas to head beyond Karl Darlow.
The Magpies took a bit of time to respond. They registered their first meaningful effort of the day through Murphy in the 25th minute, the wide-man’s strike from range taking a deflection and forcing Jack Butland into a smart parry. The Stoke ‘keeper came for the resultant corner from Dan Barlaser but got nowhere near it, and was fortunate that Fede Fernández’s header was off-target.
Though Allan Saint-Maximin brought a low stop out of Butland shortly after the restart the Magpies were fortunate not to find themselves further behind on 55 minutes after a Clucas corner caused havoc. A strike from ex-Chelsea man John Obi Mikel bounced favourably for Gregory and the striker thundered a shot against the woodwork from close range. After United scrambled the ball clear, another corner from Clucas was met by Vokes, who nodded over the top.
Newcastle should have levelled midway through the second half after Murphy broke clear. Barlaser was the architect with a superb ball from deep, and Murphy’s initial control was good. But with just Butland to beat, he was only able to direct a low shot straight at the Potters ‘keeper with time to pick his spot.
Bruce made a string of changes in the attacking third as the closing stages approached, with Almirón, Saint-Maximin and Carroll all withdrawn and Christian Atsu, Yoshinori Muto and Joelinton taking to the pitch in their place. Chances were at a premium, though, and Stoke saw out the remaining exchanges relatively comfortably to make it two wins and two defeats for Newcastle going into the new campaign.