Newcastle United U23s suffer narrow Harrogate Town defeat as former Liverpool and Chelsea starlets make debuts

Newcastle United U23s narrowly lost 2-1 to League Two side Harrogate Town as summer signings Charlie Wiggett, Remi Savage and Cameron Ferguson made their debuts.
Newcastle United under-23s manager Chris Hogg.Newcastle United under-23s manager Chris Hogg.
Newcastle United under-23s manager Chris Hogg.

Summer signings on show

The trip to Harrogate was due to present a mix of senior and younger players however Karl Darlow’s positive Covid-19 test on Saturday morning forced the two to separate in order to minimise mixing.

Although any watching Newcastle fans were starved of first-team blood at the EnviroVent Stadium, there were some notable names in the squad.

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Wiggett, a summer signing from Chelsea, started while Savage, formerly of Liverpool and Ferguson, son of Duncan, played the second half.

Matthew Bondswell, a player the Magpies beat Leeds United and West Ham to his signature, also played the opening 45 minutes.

Under-23s manager Chris Hogg took charge of the friendly with newly-appointed academy manager Steve Harper watching on from the stands.

Bright start but Harrogate soon took control

Despite effectively being drafted in at the last minute, the United young guns accounted themselves admirably, playing a good passing style – a clear identity of Hogg’s side.

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They enjoyed good spells of possession throughout but it was the League Two side that were creating all of the first-half chances.

With United momentarily down to 10 men after Ryan Barrett required treatment, former Northern Ireland international Rory McCardle brought a fantastic save from Jake Turner after George Thomson whipped a corner to the back post.

Turner made himself big to deny the central defender before moments later his defence was left off the hook when an unmarked Luke Armstrong scuffed an effort wide for six yards.

On 28 minutes, half of the EnviroVent Stadium crowd thought Alex Pattison’s low shot had beaten Turner but it had in fact rolled past the post and clipped the side netting.

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The height and physicality proved the young Magpies undoing just before half-time as Connor Hall powered home another dangerous corner by Thomson.

Ringing the changes – Ferguson & Savage have an impact

At half-time, Hogg introduced 10 changes – the only surviving player being Lucas De Bolle, who replaced the injured Reagan Thomson on 40 minutes.

Savage and Ferguson entered the field and the latter made an instant impact.

With a stature like his father, Ferguson received the ball to feet and turned to play his part in Kyle Crossley’s equaliser as the winger produced a fine run and finish for 1-1.

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Crossley’s direct running was initially a game-changer for the young guns, although goalkeeper Will Brown did catch the eye with strong low saves to deny Jack Muldoon and Pattison.

Savage looked comfortable and had a presence in a backline that largely restricted the League Two outfit to efforts from outside the penalty box.

Perhaps undeservedly, Savage and co were breached seven minutes from time when the quick-thinking of a Town trialist played in Aaron Marti, who diverted the ball home.

It may have been a pre-season friendly but it certainly bodes well for the club’s Papa John’s Trophy campaign with Harrogate to come in the group stage along with Sheffield Wednesday and Mansfield Town.

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Newcastle United U23s first-half XI: Turner, Barrett, Wiggett, Cross, Bondswell, Thomson (De Bolle, 40), Young, White, Allan, Wilson, Stephenson.

Second-half XI: Brown, Stewart, McEntee, Savage, Scott, Miley, De Bolle, Flaherty, Longelo, Ferguson, Crossley.