OLDHAM ATHLETIC’S home is undergoing some major improvement work at the moment, with a new North Stand being erected, and on the evidence of their visit to the newly-renamed Sports Direct.com Park this evening, Newcastle United’s own rebuilding project is also a work in progress.
Siem de Jong scored his first goal in a Magpies shirt as Alan Pardew’s side kicked off their pre-season programme with a 2-1 defeat, with fellow summer arrivals Jack Colback and Ayoze Perez also enjoying a decent maiden run-out.
But while a Newcastle side shorn of a number of senior players started well enough, they were gradually overrun in the second half with goals from Timothee Dieng and Willy Gros condemning them to what proved a deserved defeat.
With Daryl Janmaat’s £5m move from Feyenoord expected to be confirmed this morning, there will still be a mood of optimism when Newcastle’s players head to New Zealand on Friday for a two-game tour.
However, the Magpies will need to be a lot sharper when they return to English soil at the end of their excursions Down Under and another trip of Germany.
De Jong completed his £7.5m move from Ajax last week, and the attacking midfielder, who skippered the side in the absence of Fabricio Coloccini, could not have wished for a more explosive start to his Newcastle career.
Picking up the ball after Roland Aarons had been fouled close to the edge of the area in the 14th minute, de Jong’s initial free-kick went straight into the wall.
However, he immediately latched on to the rebound, and without breaking stride, drilled a fierce rising drive into the roof of the net.
It might only have been a friendly, but the Dutchman chose quite a way to mark his arrival in front of 1,000-or-so travelling fans.
Newcastle were the dominant side throughout the first half, with Vurnon Anita offering a threat as an overlapping right-back and Adam Armstrong displaying plenty of energy as a lone striker.
Yoan Gouffran saw a goal-bound strike blocked in the area midway through the opening period, while Paul Dummett was also prominent as he looked to get forward down the left-hand side.
Jak Alnwick was not tested at all before the break, with Oldham’s only opportunity going begging when the otherwise impressive Jonathan Forte failed to find the target with a glanced header.
Newcastle’s goalkeeper was called into action three minutes after the interval, however, and proved up to the task.
A dreadful slip from Anita afforded Jonson Clarke-Harris a clear run on goal, but Alnwick got down well to deflect the striker’s shot over the crossbar with his legs.
However, there was to be no let off when Oldham claimed a deserved equaliser in the 68th minute, with the steady stream of second-half substitutes robbing Newcastle of their earlier rhythm.
David Mellor swung over a corner from the right, and Latics debutant Dieng was completely unmarked as he headed home at the back post.
Newcastle’s tempo dropped dramatically in the second half, and Oldham duly scored a winner with 11 minutes left.
Gros created some space in the left-hand side of the penalty area, but his tame low shot should not have caused too many problems. However, Alnwick allowed the ball to squeeze beneath him and it trundled into the net.
OLDHAM (4-4-2): Rachubka; B Wilson, Kusunga (Lockwood 64), J Wilson, Mills (Brown 64); Turner (Sheriff 46), Jones (Mellor 64), Dayton (Llera 64), Kelly (Winchester 64), Forte (Dieng 64); Clarke-Harris (Gros 64).
Sub (not used): Coleman (gk).
NEWCASTLE (4-4-1-1): Alnwick; Anita (Satka 54), S Taylor (Streete 64), Yanga-Mbiwa, Dummett (Bigirimana 71); Gouffran (Ameobi 46), Abeid, Colback, Aarons (Haidara 64); de Jong (Vuckic 64); Armstrong (Perez 54).
Sub (not used): Woodman (gk).