Hunter's heartache after play-off final defeat
Written by Tom Easterby
Disappointment was the overriding feeling for midfielder Jack Hunter as Newcastle United Under-23s missed out on promotion at the “final hurdle” on Tuesday night.
Peter Beardsley’s side were beaten 2-1 by West Ham United in the Premier League 2 Division Two play-off final at St. James’ Park, despite having led 1-0 thanks to Tom Heardman’s strike.
But a pair of Toni Martinez efforts either side of half time won it for the Hammers, who will play in the Premier League 2’s highest development league next season.
Hunter captained the Magpies on Tuesday, but couldn’t hide his disappointment afterwards as United’s youngsters missed out on what would have been the club’s second promotion of the campaign.
“I’m absolutely gutted, to have come this far and not done it at the final hurdle, especially going ahead in the first half,” the 19-year-old told nufc.co.uk. “I thought we were comfortable in the game, but just didn’t go across the line. We took our foot off the gas I think and it cost us. We need to bounce back, enjoy our summer and come back ready next year ready to go again.
“Coming in at half time, we’d just conceded a silly goal, but we were still confident. Their second was another poor goal to concede, and it’s just really disappointing.
“The play-offs is the hardest way to do it, and having won an extra game against Fulham, we were on a great run. We felt we could beat everybody, and the way we played for the first half an hour, we were brilliant. It’s just a shame we couldn’t keep that up for the full 90 minutes.”
However, Hunter feels it has been a season of great progress for the Under-23s, who he has skippered on a number of occasions this term.
“Everyone’s gutted but the effort everyone’s put in in terms of the staff and the players has been top class. You can’t fault the effort of everyone,” he said.
“From previous years this year has been amazing for us as a group of players. It’s the same group really – we’ve had a few who have come in like Stu (Findlay), who’s been really good for us – but it’s mainly the same group. We’ve got to be proud of what we’ve done, but just disappointed not to go the whole way.”
Hunter added: “There’s been a winning mentality this year, we’ve played well and lost in previous year s but this year we’ve played well and got the results, so were just disappointed to not get the final one.
“It’s been brilliant, especially at St. James’ it’s a proud moment to captain the team. I’ve played a lot of games this year, and I’ve stayed fit which for me is the main thing.
“I feel really strong and fresh. I just need to make sure I continue the same way next season.”
"We took our foot off the gas I think and it cost us. We need to bounce back, enjoy our summer and come back ready next year ready to go again."