No one, just no one, was thinking about Wembley at Gresty Road last night.
Many of the Newcastle United fans in the stadium for last night’s 2-1 win over Crewe Alexandra would have been thinking about events 186 miles up the road.
This game, the club’s first in the Checkatrade Trophy, was played as Dwight Gayle’s future was discussed on Tyneside.
There’s not much love for the competition – this game was watched by a crowd of 1,351 – but this game was entertaining enough at times.
Those Crewe fans who turned up hoping to see some Premier League quality were disappointed.
Newcastle named just one over-age player – defender Curtis Good – in Peter Beardsley’s starting XI.
There were 135 ground-hopping Newcastle fans in the delightfully-named Whitby Morrison Ice Cream Van Stand for the club’s second visit to the stadium.
Newcastle beat Crewe 4-3 in League Cup tie in 1991 on their only other outing at Gresty Road.
This wasn’t nearly as dramatic.
Newcastle, captained by Jack Hunter, got off to a strong start. Former Crewe loanee Liam Smith swept the ball home after being set up by Victor Fernandez.
The midfielder had, in his own words, been looking to “prove a bit of a point” on his return to the League Two club.
The South Shields-born player didn’t make an appearance for Crewe because of an ankle injury suffered in pre-season.
Train after train rumbled past the 10,000-capacity stadium.
But the real rumblings were back on Tyneside ahead of a pivotal two days of transfer dealings.
That was the talking point, not the club’s first Checkatrade Trophy fixture.
Newcastle chose not to enter the competition last season, but the decision was taken this season to enter a team to hasten the development of Beardsley’s squad.
The experience gained should prove valuable for a group of players that need more competitive games. None of the senior players, bar Good, that were made available by Benitez earlier in the summer travelled to Cheshire.
Grant Hanley headed to Norfolk after Norwich City had a bid accepted, while others sat at home and waited. And waited.
Maybe Dwight Gayle was wondering and wondering what the future held for him.
What Newcastle lacked in experience against Crewe, they made up in energy and enthusiasm, and they took the game to an experienced side. Fernandez was a danger on the left, and Beardsley’s side passed and probed under the floodlights.
Chances came and went. Luke Charman shot across goal after Dan Barlaser intelligently set him away in the 30th minute.
Crewe had chances of their own – George Cooper had a goal disallowed for offside late in the first half – and Newcastle withstood late pressure from their hosts to take their advantage into the break.
Kyle Cameron forced a save from a Callum Roberts cross from the right in the 55th minute, and Ben Garratt denied Smith midway through the half.
Newcastle got their second breakthrough in the 67th minute. Seconds after coming on, Mo Sangare crossed from the left for Charman, who slid in and scored.
Jordan Bowey scored a late consolation goal for the home side.
CREWE ALEXANDRA: Garratt, Bakayogo, Walker, Bowery, Cooper, Nolan, Lowery, Pickering, Ainley, Kirk, Sass-Davies.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Woolston, Sterry (O’Connor, 72), Cameron, Hunter, Good, Gillesphey, Roberts (Sangare, 66), Barlaser, Charman, L Smith, Fernandez (Smith, 46). Subs not used: Yarney, Bailey, Gallacher.
Goals: Smith 4, Charman 67, Bowery 87
Att: 1,351 (135 Newcastle)