Newcastle United U23 2 Middlesbrough U23 2
- Peter Gibbons
Newcastle United Under-23s came from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw against their Middlesbrough counterparts in Premier League 2.
Two goal in as many minutes from Stephen Walker and Ben Liddle gave Boro a comfortable advantage at half time before United completed a spirited fightback in the second half, courtesy of Jack Young's terrific curling strike and Oisín McEntee's stoppage time equaliser.
Florian Lejeune made a significant step towards his return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury by featuring in the opening 45 minutes of the Premier League 2 clash, playing his first match since suffering the injury to his left knee against Crystal Palace in April.
Neil Redfearn's side headed into the Tyne-Tees meeting searching for back-to-back victories in Premier League 2 following a comfortable 2-0 victory against local rivals Sunderland.
Watched on by a crowd of 441 which included the likes of Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce, Sean and Matty Longstaff and Miguel Almirón, the young Magpies almost got off to a strong start at Whitley Park.
After Luke Charman chested the ball into the path of Jack Young, the 19-year-old midfielder fired an effort over the crossbar.
The visitors took the lead in the 34th minute as Marc Bola's dangerous cross from the left wing found Walker inside the penalty area, who produced a quick turn before drilling a low effort into the bottom right corner.
One minute later, Newcastle were dealt a difficult blow as Middlesbrough doubled their lead as another teasing cross from Bola was delivered into the path of Liddle who drove the ball into the roof of the net.
In the second half, United went in search for a way back in the contest as Mo Sangare saw an effort blocked by Middlesbrough 'keeper Zach Hemming.
With the game approaching its latter stages, Jack Young set up a tense finale with his first goal for United's second-string, a wonderful curling strike from distance which gave Hemming no chance.
Just like Middlesbrough in the first half, United almost added a second goal in quick succession as Young picked up the ball in a crowded penalty area before his placed attempt was sent wide of the target.
Luke Charman, who had netted four times in his last seven games at second-string level, almost added to his goalscoring tally as the striker's fierce effort flew narrowly over the crossbar.
It looked as if United would be unable to find the all-important goal to draw level but, in the final minutes of stoppage time, they found their second goal.
After Young's free kick sailed dangerously into the six-yard area, the ball eventually dropped into the path of McEntee after the Boro defence failed to clear the ball to safety, leaving the Irish defender to stab the ball home to rescue a point.
Newcastle United Under-23s: Dan Langley, Lewis Cass, Oliver Walters, Jamie Sterry (Kyle Scott 50), Florian Lejeune (Oisín McEntee 46), Ludwig Francillette, Tom Allan, Jack Young, Luke Charman, Mo Sangare, Victor Fernández (Josh Scott 58).
Subs not used: Jake Turner, Kain Reed.