Four days after an unwhelming performance, Newcastle United overwhelmed Bradford City.
Things won’t be so easy in the Premier League, but last night’s 4-0 win at Valley Parade was a step forward for Rafa Benitez’s side after a disappointing showing against Preston North End at the weekend.
Admittedly, Newcastle were playing against a League One club.
And Jonjo Shelvey – who ran the show for the 61 minutes he was on the pitch – won’t get this kind of time and space in the Premier League.
But there was a patten and purpose to their play. They used the ball well and fought hard to win it back, there was style and substance.
Benitez, more or less, named his strongest XI against Bradford - the question is whether that team is anywhere near strong enough for the Premier League.
The friendly kicked off as Newcastle completed the formalities of Mikel Merino’s loan move to St James’s Park.
Merino, a Borussia Dortmund midfielder, will become the club’s fifth summer signing.
But Benitez’s squad still looks short of Premier League quality in several areas.
United’s manager needs a striker and another midfielder. And he also feels he needs to sign a goalkeeper.
And any departures – Benitez left a clutch of players behind on Tyneside, including Karl Darlow and Tim Krul – will need to be replaced between now and the end of next month, when the transfer window closes.
Benitez, however, doesn’t want to have to wait that long to work with any new signings.
The 57-year-old remains frustrated, but, for now, he can only wait and hope that he gets the players he needs to turn the Magpies into a competitive top-flight team.
Matt Ritchie, such an influence on the field last season, is one player who has played in the Premier League.
And the winger made a welcome return to the starting XI at Valley Parade after recovering from a groin operation.
Typically, Ritchie went full pelt from the first whistle.
However, Benitez was again without captain Jamaal Lascelles, who suffered a knee injury during last week’s stay in Ireland.
Benitez more or less named his strongest team for what was the club’s third pre-season friendly, and a glance at the teamsheet, including the substitutes, underlined the work that needs to be done over the coming days and weeks.
The work on the pitch continued against Bradford.
Newcastle, wearing black and white, were backed by around 2,000 fans at Valley Parade.
They saw Rob Elliot tip over an early shot from Tony McMahon before United started to pass the ball.
Colin Doyle denied Ritchie, who had been played in by Shelvey, the stand-in skipper also testing Doyle in a good spell of pressure.
Lejeune, still finding his feet in English football following his move from Spanish club Eibar, found Gayle with a superb ball upfield, but the striker’s shot across goal ran just wide.
Shelvey, given too much space by Stuart McCall’s side in the first half, did better in the 24th minute. The midfielder flicked the ball past Doyle with the outside of his right foot, only for his strike to be ruled out for handball.
An intended cross from Ritchie – who was going full pelt on his return – struck the crossbar.
United played with intensity and intelligence.
Bradford stood off Shelvey and let him play. Newcastle probed and probed, but they couldn’t put the ball in the net.
That all changed after the break.
First, Christian Atsu broke down the left and crossed for Gayle, whose shot was palmed into the net by Doyle.
Seconds after the restart, Gayle played in substitute Jacob Murphy, who stepped into space and calmly beat Doyle and open his United account.
More substitutes followed, and Mitrovic, on for Gayle, took the captain’s armband from Shelvey as he left the field.
And Mitrovic scored for a second successive game.
The striker netted with a simple finish after substitute Rolando Aarons crossed from the left.
Murphy netted a fourth goal with a half-volley, and United pushed hard for a fifth.
It didn’t come, but it didn’t matter. United had already done more than enough.
But Benitez, for one, certainly won’t be getting carried away.
Bradford: Doyle, McMahon, Knight-Percival, Kilgallon, Chicksen, Gilliead, Vincelot, Reeves, Law, McCartan, Jones.
Newcastle: Elliot (Woodman, 61), Yedlin (Manquillo, 46), Lejeune (Mbemba, 61), Clark (Saivet, 77), Dummett (Gamez, 61), Atsu (De Jong, 61), Shelvey (Aarons, 61), Hayden (Colback, 77), Ritchie (Murphy, 46), Perez (Diame, 46), Gayle (Mitrovic, 61).
Goals: Gayle 50, Murphy 51, 78., Mitrovic 76
Bookings: McMahon 81, Aarons 81
Referee: Geoff Eltringham (Co Durham)