Newcastle United 3 Norwich City 0
- Michael Salisbury
A brace from Dwight Gayle added to Matt Ritchie’s opener to give Newcastle United a 3-0 victory over Norwich City in their final pre-season outing on Saturday afternoon.
Ritchie poked home the deadlock-breaker at St. James’ Park in the Magpies’ last warm-up fixture before the start of the Premier League season next week.
Substitute Gayle’s well-taken second put further distance between Newcastle and the Canaries, before the frontman finished off a terrific team move in the closing stages to make sure of what was a comfortable win in the end for Steve Bruce’s men, who will now turn their attentions to the visit of West Ham next Sunday.
Norwich started swiftly on Tyneside, with Adam Idah’s cutback finding Max Aarons inside the opening minute. The full back’s shot, though, was deflected past the post.
Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour’s corner was met full on the volley by Pierre Lees-Melou soon after, drawing the first real save of the afternoon from United’s Freddie Woodman – who was starting again in the absence of Martin Dúbravka and Karl Darlow, with Mark Gillespie and Dan Langley on the bench.
At the other end, Jacob Murphy saw a fierce shot charged down after former Magpies favourite Tim Krul had tipped a Ritchie cross into his path, but it was a largely quiet first period, with neither side able to muster a great deal of sustained attacking pressure. Woodman’s comfortable save from another powerful Lees-Melou strike, and a similarly straightforward Krul stop from Ritchie, proved the half’s final chances.
Head coach Bruce made three changes at the break, introducing Allan Saint-Maximin following his return from illness, Ryan Fraser and the fit-again Jonjo Shelvey. The typically lively Saint-Maximin was straight into the thick of the action, drawing Krul out of his box to create one opening before blasting over soon after.
The trio’s introduction looked to have set Newcastle on the front foot and almost ten minutes after the break, they went ahead. It was a scrappy goal but it was all about perseverance; firstly, from Ritchie, who kept running after his initial shot had been blocked, and from Wilson, who did battle with Christoph Zimmerman for the loose ball. It was a close range finish in the end from Ritchie, who poked the ball beyond Krul and into the corner before celebrating in traditional corner-flag-kicking style in front of the Gallowgate End.
Bruce then opted to make another batch of changes, with Fabian Schär, Jamaal Lascelles, Jamal Lewis, Jeff Hendrick and Gayle all sent on for the final 25 minutes. The rhythm of the game slipped a little, as is often the case in pre-season warm-up fixtures, but in flashes there were signs that United’s forward line were beginning to shift through the gears.
One such moment led to the hosts’ second of the day with quarter of an hour remaining. It was a neat passage of play down the right, culminating in a delicate assist from Fraser to set Gayle free. His first-time strike was crisp and unerring, beating Krul’s dive to his right.
Saint-Maximin could even have made the scoreline more impressive soon after having skipped away from Zimmerman, but in the end Andrew Omobamidele’s challenge was well-timed and firm to prevent the Frenchman rolling home a third.
But the third duly arrived two minutes from time, and it was a very well-worked team effort. Schär fed another substitute Javier Manquillo on the right, and his cross was expertly turned in by Gayle to complete the scoring in front of an appreciative Geordie crowd.
The Magpies focus will now turn to their Premier League curtain-raiser against West Ham United at St. James’ on Sunday, 15th August.