We didn’t think we would lose too many of our preseason friendly games, but we almost lost this one against League Two side Doncaster Rovers when we were 2-0 down at the half and it was two sloppy goals we conceded that almost led to our first loss of preseason.
Ayoze Perez scoring equalizer after 90 minutes
But goals from Hayden and Perez in the second half, with the Perez goal coming after 90 minutes scraped together a 2-2 draw for the Magpies, and at least the lads came back well after a poor first half display.
This was the side Rafa started tonight with Thauvin and Wijnaldum initially not on the bench but both were put there about 20 minutes before the start of the game, which seemed strange.
Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Matz Sels; Daryl Janmaat, Chancel Mbemba, Jamaal Lascelles (c), Vurnon Anita; Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Colback; Matt Ritchie, Adam Armstrong, Rolando Aarons; Aleksandar Mitrovic
Subs: Karl Darlow, Jamie Sterry, Jesus Gamez, Paul Dummett, Isaac Hayden, Cheick Tiote, Henri Saivet, Yoan Gouffran, Ayoze Perez, Dwight Gayle
New goalkeeper Matz Sels made a terrible mistake after 19 minutes when he gave away a penalty and up stepped Williams to put the home side 1-0 ahead.
Matz didn’t control the ball on the edge of his own six-yard box and then tried to punch the ball away, but only managed to foul Doncaster striker John Marquis – it was a gift of a goal from the new Newcastle goalkeeper.
Newcastle starting side tonight – like the strips
Newcastle seemed to have most of the play after this, but couldn’t really carve out too may good chances and we were not moving the ball around quickly enough – Newcastle looked sluggish.
And then would you believe it but just before half time Doncaster went 2-0 up.
It was from a corner – yes a set play – and some sloppy defending again from the Newcastle side as the players seemed to switch off just before half time and Andy Williams was allowed to head the ball home.
Andy Butler was on his own when he headed the ball back across goal and then in came Andy Williams unmarked at the far post to head home – woeful defending from Newcastle.
At the start of the second half Rafa made five changes and on came Sterry, Perez, Gamez, Gouffran and Dummett and this was the side that started the final 45 minutes.
Sels; Sterry, Mbemba, Dummett, Gamez; Hayden, Shelvey; Gouffran, Armstrong, Perez; Gayle
Newcastle played a lot better in the second half – thank goodness – and looked more like a Rafa Benitez side.
Hayden pulled one back for Newcastle when his deflected shot beat the goalkeeper to make it 2-1.
Thauvin then replaced Adam Armstrong who had a good run-out tonight and then Gini Wijnaldum was brought on – rather surprisingly – for the final 13 minutes of the game.
It was interesting that both wantaway players were initially not even on the bench tonight but ended up playing in the game.
And then as time was starting to run out it was Ayoze Perez who scored an excellent goal for us to make it 2-2, when he turned smartly and banged the ball into the back of the net.
After a full 7 minutes of added time the game was over at 2-2.
Near the end of the game the fans let their feelings be known by chanting “Wijnaldum – we want you to stay” and then “Moussa Sissoko – we want you to go”
Wonder if the world-class player (in his own mind) will see that while he is on his second week of vacation this week?
Gini has acted very professionally in preseason and you know has not.
Since preseason games are meant to be a learning exercise (well – we say that only when we don’t win) our players and Rafa Benitez will have learned a lot from this game.
The defense looked poor in that first half and leaked two very poor goals and that’s something Rafa must fix quickly.
Maybe after Grant Hanley arrives and is signed tomorrow we could do with a left-back brought in to further strengthen the back four?
Doncaster (3-5-2): Etheridge (Marosi 46); Alcock (McCormick 67), Wright (Lund 38), Butler; Blair (Calder 46), Middleton (Fielding 61), Coppinger, Rowe (Mandeville 46), Evina (Garratt 46); Marquis (Pugh 64), Williams (Longbottom 64).
Newcastle First Half (4-2-3-1): Sels; Janmaat, Mbemba, Lascelles, Anita; Colback, Shelvey; Ritchie, Armstrong, Aarons; Mitrovic.
Newcastle Second Half (4-2-3-1): Sels; Sterry, Mbemba (Saivet 67), Dummett, Gamez; Hayden, Shelvey (Wijnaldum 79); Gouffran, Armstrong (Thauvin 62), Perez; Gayle.