Eddie Howe took his squad to Glasgow last night, with Newcastle running out narrow 2-1 winners over Rangers in Allan McGregor's testimonial at Ibrox.
It was a hugely competitive fixture, with the visitors looking incredibly impressive during long periods of the first half. The press was sharp, the passing was good, and Sandro Tonali slotted in effortlessly. Elliot Anderson teed up Miguel Almirón for a lovely placed finish that sent the Magpies into the break leading 1-0.
Things tailed off in the second half after seven half-time substitutions, but despite giving up the lead after a mixup between Karl Darlow and the off-colour Bruno Guimarães, a bit of Alexander Isak magic on the left produced a headed winner from Harrison Ashby three minutes before the end.
Here are full highlights of the win, courtesy of NUFC's YouTube channel:
In a really good first half, it was Kieran Trippier, Tonali, Anderson, and Almirón that led the charge, with only Jamal Lewis looking off the pace.
Karius – 6
Trippier – 8
Schär – 7
Botman – 7
Targett – 7
Tonali – 8
Longstaff – 7
Anderson – 8
Almirón – 8
Wilson – 7
Lewis – 5
The substitutes didn't fare as well, unfortunately, though definitely weren't helped by the disruption of so many changes being made. Guimarães was probably the most disappointing of the lot, with Anthony Gordon catching the eye the most and looking razor sharp.
Lewis Miley didn't look at all out of place, either, with Isak showing plenty of quality on the rare occasions he was able to get into the game.
Darlow – 5
Manquillo – 6
A. Murphy – 6
Burn – 6
Dummett – 6
Miley – 7
Guimarães – 5
White – 6
Ashby – 6
Isak – 7
Gordon – 8
Speaking to NUFC TV after the game, the gaffer seemed pretty pleased with his side's overall performance:
"I thought it was another really good pre-season game for us. The two we've had so far have been very different but equally tough. Coming here, I think you know you've got to deal with the crowd. Very much like a European game for us, potentially, where you're coming to a big stadium with ferocious home support and we had to deal with that.
I thought there were bits of the first half that were outstanding with some really good football. Second half wasn't as pretty and as clean but there were a lot of changes in our time in that second half. But we managed to find a way to win again and that's a great thing.
This was a really good test, as Rangers did very well towards the back end of last season. They play an attractive brand of football, tactically they're an interesting team so we had to try and get to grips with them. Once we did we dominated the game, though there was a little spell between 30 and 40 minutes where I was a little bit unhappy with the amount of times we turned the ball over.
We probably didn't hurt them enough in the final third but we haven't really started that work yet, training time's been quite limited so far, so we've still got a lot of growth and improvement in the team. Still, some really positive signs in that first half I felt."
Gordon and winning goalscorer Harrison Ashby also spoke to NUFC TV after the game, with the Scouse winger commenting:
"I had a good summer and it's nice to see the lads again. It's good to get everyone back together and playing again.
I feel like I performed really well (in the U21 Euros) and fitness-wise I should be further ahead than most people because I've been playing. I feel like I am in a really good place, I feel sharp when I'm playing, so I just want to keep improving that and keep getting better.
What I can say is the fans are unbelievable. I have never experienced this before, the support tonight even when I warmed up, I'm just really thankful for them.
I think it was really good (the match) as far as pre-season friendlies go. I felt we played well, though second half we could have done a little bit better towards the end. It felt like we dropped off and let them have the ball a bit more than we usually would. Like I said, though, it's pre-season and everyone's getting back into peak shape, so hopefully that will improve in the next couple of games.
It felt like a home game, I don't know how many were here (8,000), but we were all speaking about it before and saying that 'this isn't a normal pre-season game'. I've heard about the Rangers fans being really good and I know how good our fans are, so I knew what it was going to be like."
Ashby, who played on the right wing, said:
"The gaffer said 'go and do what you can do, go and show them what you're about and make sure you get in the box on crosses'. That's what I did and I got my goal. The more versatile you are the more chances you've got of playing, I suppose.
When you're playing with someone like Alex you know that you're going to get a quality ball no matter if it's left foot or right foot. As soon as I saw him getting forward I knew that he was going to get a yard off the defender and put it in the box, so I just made sure I was in the right place at the right time.
I see this pre-season as a massive learning curve. Coming in and learning off someone like Tripps, who's arguably the best right-back in the world, so I've come in and learnt as much as I can off watching him and training with him. As long as I keep doing what I'm doing I think I'll get my opportunities and I'll definitely be able to take them.
Coming in somewhere like Newcastle where the intensity is so high, every session is 100% and every game is 110%, so I think everyone kind of goes through that stage of getting into the groove. I think I've gotten into the groove now, as I'm feeling good and I'm feeling fit.
It's even better when you score at that end (in front of the away fans). The fans are just unbelievable, coming up to Scotland, it's packed, they're outsinging the Rangers fans. Arguably I think we've got the best fans in the world."