Not so at the LNER Community Stadium this afternoon, where York City – who play in the National League North – deservedly won 1-0 thanks to a late goal from Michael Duckworth.
York’s former home, Bootham Crescent, was the scene of an embarrassing 2-1 pre-season defeat for the club, then-managed by Steve McClaren, six years ago.
And this loss will have given Steve Bruce plenty to think about ahead of next Friday’s game away to Doncaster Rovers.
Newcastle, certainly, will need to play with more intensity and urgency over the coming weeks. They also lacked fluency going forward.
They also missed the dynamism of Joe Willock, who spent the second half of last season on loan from Arsenal.
The positives? Kelland Watts – who spent last season on loan at Plymouth Argyle last season – slotted well into defence alongside Federico Fernandez and Jamaal Lascelles.
Bruce, hit by the unavailability of all four of his senior goalkeepers, had named 20-year-old Dan Langley in goal.
United’s head coach had lost Karl Darlow after he tested positive for Covid-19 in the build-up to the game. Mark Gillespie and Freddie Woodman were told to isolate as close contacts, while No.1 Martin Dubravka is recovering from foot surgery.
Woodman had only been with the squad a day, having been told to meet up with the squad at Newcastle’s training base after a proposed loan move to Bournemouth was put on hold due to Dubravka’s injury.
The positive Covid-19 case led to a change of plan – the squad was set to be split between games at York and Harrogate Town – and the Under-23s were instead sent to take on the League Two club.
At the new LNER Community Stadium, Newcastle modelled their new black and white Castore kit, and Callum Wilson, for the first time, wore the club’s cherished No.9 shirt.
Jonjo Shelvey and Javier Manquillo sat out the game, the first of six scheduled pre-season friendlies.
Bruce lost Joelinton to what looked like a thigh injury after an uneventful first 15 minutes at the 8,500-capacity stadium, which opened earlier this year.
Dwight Gayle, on for Joelinton, set up Ryan Fraser with a clever ball, but the winger’s shot dropped just the wrong side of the post. Langley then denied Michael Duckworth at the other end of the pitch.
Bruce’s side struggled to create clearcut chances against York, managed by former United player Steve Watson, and the game was goalless at the break..
Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamal Lewis were sent on for the second half – they replaced Wilson and Jamaal Lascelles – but Newcastle still couldn’t get going. A group of York fans chanted “Premier League, you’re having a laugh” before the introduction of Sean and Matty Longstaff in the 60th minute.
Ryan Whitley, York’s goalkeeper, had to be alert to stop a goal-bound header from Oliver Dyson, his team-mate. Whitley also denied Matt Ritchie and Saint-Maximin, while Sean Longstaff shot wide.
They would pay for those chances when Duckworth sent a looping header over Langley late in the game.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Langley, Murphy, Fernandez (Dummett, 68), Lascelles (Lewis, 46), Watts, Ritchie, Hayden, Hendrick (S Longstaff, 60), Fraser (M Longstaff 60), Joelinton (Gayle, 18, Muto, 79), Wilson (Saint-Maximin, 46). Subs not used: Thompson, Clark.