So far, so bon for Latics
Reporter: by MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 16 July 2014
ATHLETIC 2 NEWCASTLE 1
by MATTHEW CHAMBERS at SportsDirect.com Park
CALL this one what you will.
The SportsDirect.com special, the 70-per-cent off sale spectacle, the sold-your-soul sizzler.
Actually, scratch that last one. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all.
While Newcastle fans afford their pint-supping sportswear supremo Mike Ashley all the affection of a burger wrapper stuck to the sole of a shoe after a night out in Bigg Market, Athletic are more than happy to welcome the cockney’s coin — even if it means a jarring re-naming of the old cathedral that is Boundary Park.
Ashley wasn’t present last night, but his influence was. This friendly — won thanks to a stirring effort from Athletic, comparable to that of two years ago when Manchester City were beaten by the same scoreline — was part of the deal which landed the club close to £1million over five years in exchange for advertising its wares via a re-naming of the former Boundary Park.
At some point, it is hoped Athletic will be able to borrow some of Newcastle’s young stars thanks to the tie-up.
But with the St James’s Park outfit boasting such strong French connections, it was ironic that on the night the efforts of two bright cross-channel imports did for Alan Pardew’s team.
Timothee Dieng rose well to head in David Mellor’s corner after 68 minutes and even aside from the goal, cut a composed figure operating as a sweeper in front of the back four.
And while William Gros’s goals record for Kilmarnock makes for painful reading — two in 56 appearances, mainly as a substitute — the free agent forward showed signs here, with his well-struck left-footed shot taking Jak Alnwick by surprise and squeezing under his body, that he may be worth a punt on a short-term deal.
With both scorers starting on the bench, Athletic were slow to grow into a game initially dominated by Magpies’ new star Siem de Jong.
The former Ajax captain had already popped up dangerously on a couple of occasions when he smashed in an opening goal that was reward for the visitors’ early control on proceedings.
An initial attempt from a free-kick 25 yards out was weak and straight into the wall; the rebound, smashed into the top corner leaving Paul Rachubka no chance of stopping it, was anything but.
Trialist Jonathan Forte started to get into his stride on the left wing for Athletic around the half-hour mark, producing some telling deliveries and heading once chance wide when he may have done better.
The former Sheffield United forward showed his turn of pace three minutes after the break when capitalising on a slip by Vurnin Anita. Had he crossed to an unmarked Jonson Clarke-Harris rather than hitting a shot which Alnwick deflected over the top, Athletic would have equalised then.
Lee Johnson’s side managed the trick after making eight changes at once after 63 minutes. Gros won a corner which was swung in by Mellor and met well by Dieng at the far post.
Liam Kelly and Mike Jones had by no means poor games, but the energy of replacements Carl Winchester and Mellor in the middle was hurting Newcastle, as was Dieng’s composure just behind them.
The second goal owed a lot to positive build-up play from Winchester and Mo Shariff on the right flank, setting Gros clear.
He looked to have been pushed prohibitively wide, but his clean strike with his left foot got the job done.
Athletic were comfortable winners after that, experienced duo at the back Adam Lockwood and Miguel Llera holding firm.
Off the field, this game was about discounted jogging pants and baseball caps. On it, Athletic made a very positive impression against their moneyed cousins-by-commerce.
So far, so bon.
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