The Newcastle warm-up looked lively, attempts from the edge of the box in order to keep the keeper active for what promised to be an entertaining spectacle. The Leeds Beckett team strolled in from the changing rooms at 18:30, just in time for the kick-off, much to the annoyance of the referee. Despite a lack of obvious warm up, Leeds Beckett started sharply in a 4-5-1 formation, apparently aiming to flood the midfield with bodies and float the ball up to wingers and their number 9. It did not take long to reach a breakthrough. Only a few minutes after kick-off, the pacey Beckett number 9 was able to break through into the right side of the box, striking the ball into the far corner, leaving the keeper powerless.
Newcastle seemed more able to counter Beckett’s threat following the shock of the early goal, perhaps hoping that the age-old adage “there is always a risk in scoring early” was true. More midfield battles were won, and a volley following a corner was narrowly blocked on the edge of the Beckett six-yard box. Beckett weren’t without chances either, with the Newcastle keeper pulling off a brilliant save from a long-range effort as the defence began to look more assured.
At around 20 minutes, Newcastle found their breakthrough. Quick feet from the number 9 led to him being scythed down in the box, the referee pointed to the spot without hesitation. Number 7 buried the penalty, tying the score. However, Beckett responded quickly. Shortly after a free kick was won on the edge of the Newcastle box, only for it to be floated into the far post and headed in by a Beckett centre half. Mere minutes later, it felt like Groundhog Day as another dubious free kick was awarded in a similar position, only for another Beckett free header to finish it leaving Newcastle 3-1 down.
Despite the score line, Newcastle tried to quickly get back into the match with a goalmouth scramble following a corner unfortunately not dropping right in the six-yard box. The Newcastle defence became more aggressive, a few ‘Brexit’ challenges from the left back seemed to rattle the Beckett forwards as a Neil Warnock-esque long ball approach in Newcastle’s 4-3-3 formation took hold. Incredibly, the plan worked with number 11’s deep looping cross to the far post missed everyone, including crucially the Beckett keepers’ hands, nestling into the top left corner and leaving Newcastle only a goal down at the break.
Newcastle came out as the better team in the second half, with quick passing around a very physical Beckett side looking to frustrate them. Unfortunately, just as Newcastle looked to get back into the game a thumping effort from out wide found its way into the top right corner, immediately increasing the deficit back to two. Newcastle did not let it hit their spirits, immediately finding themselves through on goal, only for the squared pass across goal to be miscontrolled and allowing the Beckett defence back in the box. Shortly after, number 9 managed to win a header that looped onto the bar, leaving the feeling that perhaps it just wasn’t going to be Newcastle’s day.
Strong tackles commenced, with both sides looking to leave their mark on each other with Leeds Beckett’s tempers flaring, and a series of questionable dives went unnoticed by the referee which perhaps ensured they would receive little sympathy from him. Again, Beckett stuck just at the wrong time with a counterattack resulting in a dangerous out swinging cross from the right side of the pitch well finished off on the volley into the bottom corner of the Newcastle goal at around 65 minutes, leaving little hope of a Newcastle comeback.
Newcastle adopted a ‘Hail Mary’ tactic, shifting to a 4-4-2 formation and hoping that more direct passes would be more effective. Leeds Beckett seemed happy to sit back and enjoy their lead, only attempting long range efforts resulting in some top-quality saves from the Newcastle keeper. The Beckett number 9 late in the game did have a couple one on ones, although perhaps showed his earlier goal was a fluke with the Newcastle keeper saving once at the near post and the other attempt sailing well wide. The game fizzled out towards the end, bar a curling effort from Newcastle that narrowly went over the bar, leaving the game to finish 5-2 to the visitors.
Despite the score line, Newcastle put up a good fight and were perhaps unlucky at times to concede at the wrong moments which prevented a possible fight back into the game. Some stellar goals and performances, particularly from the goalkeeper and front three, means Newcastle can keep their heads held high and hope to make sure the next match goes their way instead.