- Karl Evans
Newcastle United Under-23s kicked off their Premier League 2 campaign with an entertaining 2-2 draw against local rivals Middlesbrough on Friday afternoon.
Ben Liddle's penalty gave Boro's youngsters an early lead at United's Little Benton Academy before strikes from Niall Brookwell, making his first competitive start for the young Magpies, and Elliot Anderson gave the hosts a slender half-time lead.
Isaiah Jones' second half strike levelled the Tyne-Tees clash for the visitors as Chris Hogg's side were made to settle for a point in their opening fixture of the 2020/21 season.
Ahead of the Tyne-Tees encounter, Newcastle were without the services of Danish striker Elias Sørensen, who was suspended following his red card against Sunderland back in February, leaving Yannick Touré, who has represented Switzerland at under-20 level, to lead the line for United.
Brookwell, who signed from Liverpool last month, was also named in the starting line-up while defender Ludwig Francillette was selected as captain.
Newcastle got off to a difficult start after 11 minutes as Middlesbrough were awarded a penalty, with Jones adjudged to be tripped inside the area by Oisín McEntee, despite the Irishman pleading his innocence to referee Karl Evans.
Goalkeeper Dan Langley was unfortunate not to keep out Liddle's spot-kick after guessing the correct way, with the 19-year-old only able to parry the ball into the right-hand corner of the net.
United grew into the game, though, with Touré going close for United after brilliant work from winger Adam Wilson to find the forward inside the penalty area but the Swiss forward's shot was saved by a stretching Zach Hemming.
The home side kept pushing for an equaliser and were rewarded for their efforts in the 34th minute as Brookwell scored his first goal in black and white colours. Following a deep cross from full-back Ryan Barrett, the ball found its way kindly to the 18-year-old, who then drove a fierce low effort beyond Hemming.
McEntee then prevented Middlesbrough from regaining the lead after bravely blocking Stephen Walker's goalbound effort with his head before Jack Young saw his free-kick pushed away by Hemming minutes later.
Anderson, grandson of former Newcastle winger Geoff Allen, sent United into the lead before the half-time whistle. Another teasing cross, this time from winger Rosaire Longelo, found the 17-year-old inside the penalty area before calmly drilling the ball into the net.
In the second half, Brookwell went close to grabbing his second of the afternoon but saw his bending strike from the edge of the box take a deflection before flashing wide of the far post.
Wilson was unfortunate not to double United's advantage shortly after the hour mark. The former England under-18 international fired home from inside the six-yard area after an inviting corner from Young was knocked towards goal by Francillette but the effort was ruled out for offside.
Further disappointment was to follow for the young Magpies as Boro got themselves back on level terms through Jones. After an dangerous attacking move from the hosts saw Jones' first strike at goal blocked by Francillette, the forward was quickly on hand to fire his rebound into the roof of the net.
Both sides continued their search for a late winner but, just like last season's league meeting at Whitley Park, the contest finished in a four-goal draw.
Newcastle United Under-23s: Dan Langley; Lewis Cass, Ludwig Francillette (c), Oisín McEntee, Ryan Barrett, Jack Young, Niall Brookwell; Rosaire Longelo (Dylan Stephenson 80), Elliot Anderson, Adam Wilson; Yannick Touré (Stan Flaherty 69).
Subs not used: George Rounsfell, Will Brown, Nathan Carylon.