Analysis: Woeful finishing can’t spoil Steve McClaren’s first game

Cisse scores the only goal
Cisse scores the only goal

Job done, no injuries.

Well, no fresh ones at least.

That was the message from Steve McClaren after his first game in charge of Newcastle United ended in a 1-0 win over neighbours Gateshead.

It could – should – have been a lot more. Newcastle spurned plenty chances to remind fans in an estimated crowd of 6,000 just why the club appears willing to spend £13million on Anderlecht striker Aleksander Mitrovic.

Goals were hard to come by last season for Newcastle, and the Magpies’ forwards continued in a similar vein, passing up some glaring opportunities with alarmingly poor finishing.

First game of the summer though. Let’s put it down to rust, aye?

You don’t want to see bad injuries and we won the game by penalty

Steve McClaren

it was a minor blip on an otherwise successful run-out for Newcastle. 22 players were used by McClaren who picked a strong starting XI for his first team sheet as head coach.

However, despite their strength, the Premier League club found it hard to break down their Conference rivals, marshalled by South Shields-born boss Malcolm Crosby, himself in his first game in charge of his side.

They had to be content with a solitary goal from Papiss Demba Cisse, converting a sixth-minute penalty after Simon Ramsden felled the marauding Massadio Haidara.

Moussa Sissoko and Siem de Jong before the break, then Adam Armstrong, Manu Riviere and Rolando Aarons all passed up golden opportunities to make the scoreline greater.

But other than that, it was a largely successful first venture for McClaren.

A first win, no major injuries and a good reception from the crowd all delighted him as he now gets set for Newcastle’s pre-season trip to USA.

“You don’t want to see bad injuries and we won the game by penalty,” McClaren said.

“I can’t fault the staff since I was here, in terms of everything, they have been organised down to the last minute and the players have been great. It’s all about America now.”

While 22 players got 45 minutes each, there were some notable absentees. Fabricio Coloccini and Tim Krul remained on the bench while there was no sign of Mehdi Abeid, Paul Dummett or Remy Cabella.

It is the latter who is causing the most concern, and the Frenchman could be left at home when Newcastle fly out tomorrow morning.

“I think Remy Cabella is a doubt for America,” revealed McClaren. “He has picked up a knock on his thigh and we find out the results of a scan on Saturday.”

While Cabella sat out the game, there were at least debuts for former Nottingham Forest duo Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles.

The pair have had to wait a year for their bows, having signed for Newcastle last summer only to be loaned straight back to Forest for the season.

The two new boys had little opportunity to shine. Gateshead barely got out of their own half as Newcastle dominated possession, though goalkeeper Darlow’s handling when required was fine, and Lascelles showed some strong defending in the air and brought the ball out from defence on a couple of occasions.

Elsewhere, in Coloccini’s absence Jack Colback was handed the skipper’s armband despite De Jong – vice-captain last season – also being on the pitch.

It was just good to see De Jong on the pitch, however, after his injury problems, while the other vice-captain from last term, Cheik Tiote, also made a welcome return, playing his first game since January and easing his way back into action with the minimum of fuss.

Newcastle first half: Darlow, Janmaat, Williamson, Lascelles, Haidara, Sissoko, Anita, Colback, Gouffran, De Jong, Cisse.

Newcastle 2nd half: Woodman, Bigirimana, Satka, Good, Ferguson, Obertan, Tiote, Perez, Aarons, Armstrong, Riviere.