Ben Dawson and Kelland Watts hail 'commanding' Florian Lejeune after Newcastle defender's return from injury

Florian Lejeune.
Florian Lejeune.

Florian Lejeune eased through his first 45 minutes since returning from a knee ligament injury with a 'commanding' performance for Newcastle United's Under-23s.

Rafa Benitez was in the crowd to watch the French defender take the next step in his comeback from an injury that has kept him out of action since pre-season.

Lejeune played the first half as United’s Under-23’s came from behind to secure a 2-1 win over their Norwich City counterparts at Whitley Park.

READ MORE: Florian Lejeune watch - how Newcastle defender fared on his comeback
That marked the former Eibar defender’s first appearance since the Magpies first pre-season fixture against St Patrick's Athletic.

United Under-23’s coach Ben Dawson paid tribute to Lejeune’s professionalism after watching his side stretch their unbeaten run to six games thanks to goals from Callum Roberts and Rosaire Longelo.

He said “He (Lejeune) trained with us yesterday and he was very professional, very attentive in terms of the information and the set-plays.

“Obviously it’s a very short turnaround since his operation to get back out on the pitch, but I thought he was commanding and did what he had to do really.

“It was important for him to get through that 45 minutes.

“He was very calm, not very vocal, but he just gave little bits of information to those that were playing alongside him.”

Kelland Watts partnered Lejeune at the heart of the United defence during the first 45 minutes of their win over the Canaries.

The highly-rated defender also captained the side for the first time in the absence of regular skipper Owen Bailey and put in an assured performance to keep a lively City strikeforce at bay.

Watts described Lejeune as “a fantastic player” and believes that he had learnt a lot from playing alongside a player will now challenge for a first-team place alongside the likes of Federico Fernandez, Fabian Schar and United skipper Jamaal Lascelles.

“It was great,” explained Watts. “He’s a fantastic player.

“He’s had a tough injury but he seems like he’s worked hard and he’s ready to play.

“It was great to have him alongside me, he’s a pro, he’s up there with the first team.

“It was good to see what the level is like to base my performance on his and think about the things he did well and try to put them into my game as well.”

Next up for United’s Under-23s is a long trip to the South Coast on Friday night when they face Southampton in their final Premier League 2 fixture before Christmas.