Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Bohemian 0 Newcastle United 6

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Newcastle United went short-haul this pre-season.

But they’ll need to be in it for the long haul in the Championship.

This time last year, the players, then coached by Steve McClaren, were sweltering in California.

Rafa Benitez took his players across the Irish Sea, not the Atlantic.

And they returned to Tyneside buoyed by a convincing 6-0 win over an admittedly weakened and tired Bohemian side – who had played rivals Shamrock Rovers the night before – in Dublin.

The team, backed by 400 travelling fans, played with a pace and purpose at the two-side Dalymount Park.

At one end is a disused terrace, and along one side of the pitch is a condemned stand.

It was a hospitable, but inauspicious, venue for a first glimpse of the team that Benitez is building.

They set about their jobs diligently.

Benitez handed full debuts to winger Matt Ritchie and goalkeeper Matz Sels.

And it was Ritchie, playing on the right side of a front three, who made the early running.

Benitez also handed right-back Jamie Sterry a start, and it was an over-lapping run from the 20-year-old which led to Ritchie’s 15th-minute opener.

Ritchie took the ball on to his left foot and curled a shot into the top-left hand corner.

Lone striker Aleksandar Mitrovic won and converted a penalty later in the half, and Benitez made changes at the break.

Isaac Hayden and Gayle made their debuts – Jesus Gamez came on late in the game – and United fans got their first glimpse of Florian Thauvin since January, when he was booed by United fans at Watford.

Gayle struck the post early in the half, and he hooked the ball past Shane Supple in the 52nd minute.

Thauvin added a fourth goal three minutes later – the winger finished at the far post after Rolando Aarons crossed from the left – as Newcastle found their stride.

Aarons quickly scored a fifth, and substitute Georginio Wijnaldum rounded off the scoring in the 75th minute.

At the other end of the pitch, Sels and second-half substitute Karl Darlow had quiet afternoons.

Benitez must choose between the pair of them in pre-season.

Tim Krul and Rob Elliot, both recovering from the ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments they suffered last season, won’t be fit for the club’s season-opener away to Fulham on August 5, and Sels, it seems, hasn’t been signed to sit on the bench during his first season on Tyneside.

Much will depend how he adapts to his new environment.

But Benitez feels the imposing 24-year-old, regarded as the best goalkeeper in Belgium last season, has the authority and agility needed to play in English football.

Another decision Benitez has to make concerns the captaincy following the departure of Fabricio Coloccini.

Defender Jamaal Lascelles wore the armband at Dalymount Park.

And there’s a strong chance he will lead the team out at Craven Cottage.

Newcastle will need strong leadership this season on and off the pitch, and Lascelles, while relatively young, is a leader on and off the pitch.

Benitez may be minded to give the armband to Moussa Sissoko, who led the team in the final few weeks of last season.

But Sissoko, it seems, would rather be anywhere but on Tyneside this season, and Benitez has few alternatives to Lascelles, who spoke to eloquently and passionately after last season’s defeat to Southampton when then-captain Jonjo Shelvey said nothing.

Lascelles is more like Kevin Nolan, the last man to captai the club in the Championship, than Sissoko, Shelvey and Fabricio Coloccini.

Nolan coaxed and cajouled his players through that 46-game season.

And already, Lascelles is playing an important role behind the scenes as Benitez moulds a team, and a togetherness, ahead of what will be another gruelling campaign.

The team left the field to Busker’s “Home Newcastle”.

And there had also been a few Geordie favourites played over the PA system played before the game.

United couldn’t have been made more welcome in Dublin by Bohemian.

But the Championship won’t be so welcoming.