After seeing it would be streamed live on Youtube, I spent my afternoon watching our U23’s take on top of the table Leeds United at Thorp Arch.
The game finished 2-1 to Leeds – a win that moves them SIXTEEN points clear at the top of the Premier League 2 (division 2) and defeat for Newcastle that sees us move bottom of the pile.
The last time the two sides met we came from 0-3 down to win 4-3 via an Elliot Anderson inspired comeback, and it was almost a similar story in this one, with us missing a host of chances to make it 2-2 after going 2-0 down in the first half an hour.
Considering the two clubs are at opposite ends of the table, we actually gave a good account of ourselves and deserved more from the game.
Both sides fielded two senior players and a promising youngster knocking on the first team door. Ours being Christian Atsu, Henri Saivet and U-23 star Elliot Anderson, with Leeds also handing starts to German international Robert Koch, Gaetano Berardi and exciting talent Ian Poveda.
Our starting line up also featured Jack Young and Tom Allan – two players who were training with the first-team before EFL loan moves last summer.
Atsu actually got on the scoresheet just before half time, tapping in following an impressive burst of pace from Tom Allan. That said, he and Saivet were on the fringes of the game in truth, looking more like frustrated players waiting for their next move – not two men busting a gut to get back into Bruce’s plans.
As ever, it was Elliot Anderson who stood out. He cut a frustrated at times and was being closely marked by Leeds’ first-team star Robert Kock, however he was the one NUFC player constantly looking to get on the ball, make things happen and drive at the Whites’ defence.
One negative to note was the 18-year-old’s finishing. Some brilliant approach play allowed him to get in a few good positions, only for two of his big second half chances to be hit straight at the Leeds goalkeeper. He clearly has something to offer from the bench, but Bruce may be wary of throwing him into the starting 11 when these sort of misses at first-team level would be berated on social media.
Attacking duo Joe White and Stan Flaherty also showed flashes of good footwork and tight dribbling during late cameos, while England youth international Adam Wilson offered the odd bit of trickery and pace – although he wasn’t involved nearly as much as the influential Anderson.
Positives aside, it’s ultimately another defeat for our second string and one that leaves us bottom of the Premier League 2’s second tier – showing our senior side aren’t the only ones struggling.
As for Atsu and Saivet, it would be wise if the club could get both off the wage bill ASAP, with both costing the club upwards of £60,000 per week to deny some of our young talents regular game time at U23 level.