Sheffield Wednesday 0 Newcastle United 1: Neil Cameron's match analysis

Ayoze Perez scores against Sheffield Wednesday as Newcastle United's second team hint at a stronger squad for this season

Paul Thomas/Getty Images Ayoze Perez of Newcastle celebrates his goal with team mate Haris Vuckic
Ayoze Perez of Newcastle celebrates his goal with team mate Haris Vuckic

For any club to be successful, a strong squad in terms of numbers and quality is a necessity.

So far this pre-season, those Newcastle players who could be described accurately and with no malice as fringe men have been given a decent chance to impress.

And so it was again last night at Hillsborough against a far more experienced Sheffield Wednesday side.

A problem for Alan Pardew in recent seasons, and he’s spoken about it often enough, is what he has called the soft underbelly.

Injuries to key players always hurt, but those problems are ten fold when there are next to no options open to the manager, or at best there are only one or two.

A strong 15 or 16 will only get Newcastle United so far. It’s the difference between mid-table and challenging for the top eight at worst.

So did anyone put their hand up and suggest they could play a part this season? A few did in actual fact and we need to see more of that.

Mehdi Abeid did himself a few favours. The Algerian, who has bulked up, is in possession of a decent touch and knows how to pass the ball. It may well be the case that Panathinaikos, who want Abeid back, may end up disappointed.

It was the first chance for Newcastle fans to see Ayoze Perez and Emmanuel Riviere, and while it’s silly to make any judgements in these games, the Frenchman’s speed and willingness to chase long balls caught the eye. At times his runs weren’t picked up by his new team-mates, but that understanding will come.

Perez impressed and scored a lovely goal. He and Adam Armstrong linked up well at times, while Rob Elliot made some good saves.

Cheick Tiote was back and while rusty, was the same old steady player we have come to know.

As friendly games go, this was a bit rough and tumble at times, however, the hosts emerged from the encounter with a lot of credit.

The names of Liam Sweeney and John Alder appeared on the scoreboard during the first-half, which promoted a standing ovation. A nice touch.

And continuing with the emotional theme, the Newcastle players wore black armbands to mark today being the fifth anniversary of Sir Bobby Robson’s death.

It was a decent enough workout for both sides. There have been far worse such matches. Newcastle did play a lot of balls over the top of the Wednesday defence in an attempt to capitalise on their quicker players and on 11 minutes, it nearly worked when both Perez and Armstrong latched onto a Tiote ball, only for Chris Kirkland to race from his goal and make a fine defensive clearance on the edge of his own box.

And then on 20 minutes, Obertan brought himself some space inside the box and got off an effort that was as much a cross as it was a shot. Glenn Loovens booted clear.

Newcastle came close to a goal on 23 minutes when a lovely chipped pass by Perez sent Riviere racing through between two defenders. He touched the ball past the oncoming Kirkland, but it rolled wide rather than in the net.

The striker looked astonished that a penalty hadn’t been given for Loovens pulling his shirt. He may have had a point.

The game livened up and Giles Coke got a shot on target for the South Yorkshire side with a decent drive from just outside the area, although United keeper Elliot, who for some reason was dressed in a high-vis strip, was never troubled,

The same could not be said three minutes later when Atdhe Nuhiu’s deflected shot almost crept in at the near post.

And from that corner, taken by Maguire, a low ball across the box was met by Wednesday full-back Joe Mattock whose first-time shot wasn’t too far away from the top corner.

Just before the half-hour had come and gone, Elliot made a superb save to deny a bullet of a header from Nuhiu who was all but four yards from goal. The linesman had actually spotted an infringement so it would not have counted, nonetheless, it was a brilliant piece of goalkeeping.

But it was the woodwork that saved Elliot on 36 minutes. Paul Dummett fell over, Shaun Hutchison took advantage of the mistake and his shot rattled the underside of the bar.

It is tradition in such July fixtures that the second-half is always something of a non-event. Too many substitutes and no real reason to over-exert. In saying that, young Armstrong was lively and enjoyed some nice touches, and then came a lovely moment for Perez on 66 minutes.

It started with a long ball from Elliot, which was flicked into the young Spaniard’s path by Gabriel Obertan. He timed his run to perfection and his dinked shot over Kirkland wasn’t bad either.

Wednesday’s giant striker Nuhiu was a pest all night and he almost grabbed an equaliser after dribbling past three players before running out of space.

The game should have ended 1-1, but Sheffield Wednesday sub Franck Betra managed to side-foot an effort wide from five yards out with 12 minutes remaining.

There was still time for Elliot to make a good stop to deny Ryan Croasdale from close range.

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