Analysis: Achilles heel remains defence in Fabricio Coloccini’s absence

Aleksandar Mitrovic takes on the York City defence on his debut
Aleksandar Mitrovic takes on the York City defence on his debut

It was an unfamiliar starting XI, but there were all-too-familiar problems.

Newcastle United’s long-standing defensive frailties were evident at a rain-soaked Bootham Crescent last night.

Newcastle United's Shane Ferguson (top) is tackled by York City's Luke Summerfield

Newcastle United's Shane Ferguson (top) is tackled by York City's Luke Summerfield

The talk in pre-season has been about captain Fabricio Coloccini’s sore Achilles.

And the worry is that the back four will again be Newcastle’s Achilles heel this coming season.

York City beat a much-changed United side, featuring Aleksandar Mitrovic, 2-1.

Ayoze Perez scored for Newcastle on what was his 22nd birthday.

Steve McClaren looks on worried at Bootham Crescent

Steve McClaren looks on worried at Bootham Crescent

Coloccini was at Bootham Crescent for the game, but he was not on the field.

The 33-year-old, yet to play this season because of his Achilles problem, watched the match from the directors’ box ahead of Saturday’s final pre-season friendly against Borussia Monchengladbach at St James’s Park.

Whatever his longer-term future, the defender is needed on the pitch – now.

The match also saw striker Mitrovic make his United debut after just one training session with his new team-mates. Mitrovic, signed from Anderlecht this month, had several chances, but couldn’t find the target.

Absent at Bootham Crescent was goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman, who is expected to leave the club to be reunited with former manager Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace. That meant goalkeepers Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot, bizarrely, had to warm themselves up.

Newcastle, captained by Siem de Jong, started well. They moved the ball forward quickly, and de Jong forced an early save from York goalkeeper Scott Flinders with a low shot.

Mitrovic also headed a Shane Ferguson cross wide of goal in a strong opening period from United, backed by around 1,750 fans, most standing, at Bootham Crescent.

But things quickly unravelled for Newcastle on a sodden pitch.

York took the lead thanks to a goal from Anthony Straker, who beat Darlow in the 16th minute with a looping shot from Marvin McCoy right-wing cross.

And a trialist doubled their lead four minutes later. He cut in from the right and beat Darlow with a fierce rising shot from 20 yards.

The home side dominated the rest of the half, and McClaren – who was sat in the director’s box – will have been relieved that York didn’t do more damage in a sloppy 20-minute period from his team.

United, however, did manage a couple of raids downfield.

And winger Rolando Aarons hit the bar with a header from a corner late in the half, and York took their two-goal advantage into the break.

It was not as if McClaren could make many changes for the second half.

Newcastle had Elliot and midfielder Olivier Kemen on the bench – and a couple of Academy players. As it was, Elliot replaced Darlow.

Forward Yoan Gouffran forced a save from Flinders with a low drive, and Mitrovic shot narrowly wide after he was played in by a lovely dinked pass from Ayoze Perez.

Midfielder Gael Bigirimana also tried his luck from distance, but his shot was directly at Flinders.

Olivier Kemen, linked with a move to AC Milan, replaced a limping Aarons as the hour-mark approached.

United, energised by the running of forward Perez, pressed for a goal, and Mitrovic headed wide from a Shane Ferguson cross shortly after Kemen’s introduction.

Teenager Lewis Suddick replaced Mitrovic in the 68th minute.

And Perez – who replaced Mitrovic as the lead striker – finished at the far post after Jamaal Lascelles flicked on a corner.

Newcastle, much better after the break, couldn’t force an equaliser. But McClaren will have been more concerned with what happened in the first half.

YORK CITY: Flinders, McCoy, Berrett, McCombe, Summerfield, Oliver, Penn, Straker, Lowe, Winfield, trailist.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow (Elliot, 46); Bigirimana, Satka, Lascelles, Ferguson; Abeid, Gouffran, Aarons (Kemen, 58), de Jong, Perez; Mitrovic (Suddick, 68). Subs not used: Johnson.

Goals: Straker 16, trialist 20, Perez 75

Referee: Scott Duncan (North’land)

Attendance: 5,406