- Lewis Smith
Newcastle United under-23s began the new year with an impressive 3-0 victory against their Fulham counterparts on Friday afternoon.
Despite a goalless first half at Newcastle's Little Benton Academy, the game came to life after the hour mark as Rosaire Longelo's fine strike broke the deadlock.
Two quick-fire goals in the closing stages from Yannick Touré and Victor Fernández helped to seal an emphatic victory against the Cottagers in Premier League 2 to move within four points of the of the division two play-off spots.
Ben Dawson made three changes to the side which played against Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League International Cup, with starts for teenage defender Jude Swailes along with forwards Adam Wilson and Yannick Touré.
And it was United's Wilson who went close to breaking the deadlock in the opening minutes of the league clash but the forward's fierce drive at goal was pushed away by Fulham goalkeeper Taye Ashby Hammond.
Newcastle goalkeeper Jake Turner was forced into keeping Fulham at bay as the former England under-19 international denied Terry Ablade with a strong stop from close range.
Jack Young took his turn in front of goal with a venomous effort from the edge of the box but, once again, Ashby Hammond was alert to the danger and produced a strong stop to deny the 19-year-old midfielder.
With the game approaching half-time, Wilson almost sent Newcastle into the dressing room with a lead but the forward's goal bound effort from the edge of the penalty area was tipped over the crossbar by Ashby Hammond.
In the second half, the hosts went narrowly close to taking the lead as Liberian midfielder Mo Sangare saw two efforts at goal crucially blocked by the Fulham defence, with the latter shot cleared off the line.
However, the Magpies weren't to be denied in the 64th minute as Longelo sent the hosts into the lead. After a dangerous cross from Victor Fernández was controlled by Yannick Touré, the ball landed kindly into the path of Longelo, who arrowed a terrific effort into the top right-hand corner.
Newcastle then doubled their advantage in the 80th minute as Touré turned from provider to goalscorer. After Elliot Anderson's neat pass was sent into the path of the Swiss striker, Touré produced another important touch before drilling the ball into the bottom corner.
Two minutes later, United confirmed their win as Fernández notched Newcastle's third, getting onto the end of Dylan Stephenson's teasing cross from the right wing and placing the ball into the left-hand corner to round off a solid display.
Newcastle United Under-23s: Jake Turner, Ryan Barrett, Jude Swailes, Oisín McEntee, Oliver Walters, Adam Wilson (Elliot Anderson 46), Jack Young, Mo Sangare (Joe White 73), Victor Fernández, Rosaire Longelo (Dylan Stephenson 77), Yannick Touré.
Subs not used: Lucas Gamblin, Dan Langley.