The Newcastle firsts looked to go one better than the seconds they watched in the afternoon as they welcomed Manchester Uni in the inaugural game of the new floodlit pitch that is the first completed part of the multi-million-pound redevelopment of the Henderson Hall and Cochrane Park sites.
The pressure was on Newcastle to start well as they have been tasked with going one better than last year’s play-off heartbreak after winning the Northern 1A league and finally gaining promotion to the Premier League where they belong.
As expected the game got off to a frantic pace, with the fast surface of the new pitch resulting in a few heavy touches that were followed by gut-wrenching tackles as both sets of players looked to impose themselves on the game. Both sides were happy to let either defence have possession and favoured retreating into a defensive shape just over half-way and invited the opposition to break them down.
"Walden drove the ball with venom past the keeper into the far side netting"
Newcastle looked far more competent with the ball, and the lads who have been back in the toon since mid-July started to make their tough pre-season show as they looked much sharper than their Mancunian counterparts.
Unsurprisingly it was Newcastle who struck the first blow. The midfield three of the Royals were linking well with the front three and a patient passing move found Walden in space in the right side of the Manchester 18-yard box and he drove the ball with venom past the keeper into the far side netting.
A few minutes later Newcastle worked the ball out to Walden who flashed a ball across the face of goal that allowed Konadu-Yiadom to convert from close range. 2-0 Newcastle after a commanding start to the game.
"Manchester's defensive frailties were exposed by their hosts"
Good work from Woodier in the midfield as he turns and skips past a couple of opposition players and sprays a ball out to the danger man Walden on the right-hand side. Walden sends over a deep searching ball into the box the just evades the desperate head of the Manchester right-back, allowing for Thomas to send the ball into the top corner on the volley. The first half ended with Newcastle 3-0 up.
With the work being done in the first 45, the second half passed with nothing much to report on. Newcastle were content to sink into their shape and, marshalled by the experience defensive pairing of Mairs and Hamblin, looked comfortable as they looked to see out the game.
Manchester were not able to register any efforts of note and their defensive frailties were exposed once more by their hosts. Midfield maestro Horn picked up the ball inside his own half and drove forward to give the defence some respite. Ignoring the easy pass down the line, he opted for a sweeping Crossfield daisy cutter that found the stride of Konadu-Yiadom perfectly and the striker calmly converted into the bottom corner.
A promising start for Newcastle as they cruised to a 4-0 victory on their opening night, but they know tougher tests are ahead as they search for successive Northern 1A Championships.