Allan Saint-Maximin has come to life at Newcastle United as Eddie Howe pushes for final transfers

Newcastle United’s pre-season preparations are all but complete on the pitch – but there’s work to be done off the field.
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Eddie Howe’s side beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 thanks to goals from Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin in their final friendly ahead of the new Premier League campaign, which kicks off next weekend.

The club, which has signed three players so far this summer, has had a positive pre-season campaign, but Howe – who’s set to include 19-year-old Elliot Anderson in his squad – is still short of a couple of signings.

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Howe’s players look fit and ready for the new season, but the squad lacks depth in a couple of key attacking areas.

And how the club, which has had a bid for James Maddison turned down by Leicester City, fares in the transfer market between now and the end of next month will have a significant bearing on the team’s prospects for a much-anticipated campaign.

The Athletic game, which was watched by a crowd of 46,856, followed last night’s 1-0 win over Serie A club Atalanta, which was decided by a first-half Chris wood penalty.

That crowd meant 87,452 fans had passed through the turnstiles at St James’s Park in the space of 24 hours. The level of optimism is in stark contrast to that a year ago, when the club, taken over last October, was still owned by Mike Ashley.

Newcastle United striker Callum Wilson celebrates after scoring against Athletic Bilbao.Newcastle United striker Callum Wilson celebrates after scoring against Athletic Bilbao.
Newcastle United striker Callum Wilson celebrates after scoring against Athletic Bilbao.
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Howe fielded a team, led by Jamaal Lascelles, which included Joelinton and Bruno Guimaraes. United’s head coach, without injured quartet Jonjo Shelvey, Federico Fernandez, Javier Manquillo and Jamal Lewis, named the same bench.

Newcastle settled quickly into the game. They got an early breakthrough when Saint-Maximin – who had had a quiet pre-season campaign up to the Bilbao game – beat two players and played the ball to Matt Ritchie, who found Wilson. Wilson held off a defender before rolling the ball past a wrong-footed Ander Iruarrizaga.

Iruarrizaga gathered a long-range effort from Guimaraes a few minutes later during a spell of United dominance.

Time and again, Newcastle attacked, and Guimaraes was at the centre of everything.

Newcastle United's Allan Saint-Maximin scores his team's second goal.Newcastle United's Allan Saint-Maximin scores his team's second goal.
Newcastle United's Allan Saint-Maximin scores his team's second goal.
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Bilbao struggled to get out of their own half for the first 30 minutes, though they had a chance late in the half when Inaki Williams broke away, but the forward shot into the side netting.

United took their advantage into the break, and Howe sent out an unchanged side for the second half.

Saint-Maximin latched on to a ball up the left, got in behind – and rolled the ball past Iruarrizaga. The winger celebrated with somersault in front of the Gallowgate End.

Raul Garcia pulled a goal back for Athletic in the 64th minute, and the visitors pushed for an equaliser.

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Newcastle had lost their earlier momentum, and Howe replaced Paul Dummett with Matty Bondswell, who had done so well after coming off the bench in Tuesday night’s 3-2 defeat to Benfica.

Lucas De Bolle, Matty Longstaff and Santiago Munoz were sent on in the final few minutes as United saw out the game.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Dubravka, Krafth, Lascelles, Botman, Dummett (Bondswell, 71), Guimaraes (De Bolle, 88), Willock, Joelinton, Ritchie, Saint-Maximin (M Longstaff, 88), Wilson (Munoz, 90). Subs not used: Gillespie, Stephenson, Turner-Cooke, A Murphy, L Miley.