Leeds United 3 Newcastle United 2
WAYNE Routledge will complete a £2m move to Swansea City in the next 24 hours, but Newcastle United are close to admitting defeat in their long-running pursuit of Paris St Germain striker Mevlut Erdinc.
Routledge was not part of the Magpies squad that suffered a 3-2 friendly defeat at Leeds United yesterday, with Swansea having tabled an improved offer for his services over the weekend. The winger will undergo a medical in south Wales this morning after the Swans beat off competition from a number of Championship clubs.
Jose Enrique and Fabricio Coloccini were also excluded from yesterday's trip to Elland Road, but Alan Pardew insisted their absence was injury related rather than evidence of an impending departure from the North-East.
Coloccini should be fit for Saturday's final friendly against Fiorentina, despite picking up a groin problem in the United States. Enrique's situation has not changed in the last fortnight, and while he is nursing a minor hamstring injury, he will face Fiorentina unless suitors Arsenal and Liverpool step up their interest this week.
Newcastle's interest in Erdinc has been well signposted all summer, but with the need for a new striker glaringly apparent during yesterday's defeat, Pardew will not allow the current impasse to drag on much longer.
Erdinc played for Paris St Germain on Saturday as the French club suffered a 1-0 defeat to New York Red Bulls in the Emirates Cup, and while he was not involved in yesterday's win over Boca Juniors, PSG boss Antoine Kombouare claims the 24-year-old still has a future at the Parc des Princes.
"I think it's fairly evident that we've spent a lot of time on that transfer," said Pardew, after Newcastle slumped to their second pre-season defeat in five games. "Now, we need to make sure that we've got a player or maybe two players for the start of the season. Privately, we've had a conversation about a time scale for things. But that's about the best I can say at the moment.
"Wayne's move to Swansea is imminent and that's why he wasn't here. I rested Coloccini because he played the last game with a sore groin. Enrique had tight hamstrings, but he will hopefully train (today). Going into the Fiorentina game, I expect everyone to be available apart from (Danny) Guthrie and (Hatem) Ben Arfa."
Routledge, Enrique and Coloccini were not the only notable absentees from the Newcastle squad yesterday, as Alan Smith also missed out on the trip to Elland Road.
According to club officials, the former Leeds midfielder was suffering from a minor groin injury. To the conspiracy theorists, however, it was a convenient way to avoid a gauntlet of abuse at the ground he once called home.
Steve Harper was also nowhere to be seen, and having played in just one pre-season game so far, Newcastle's most experienced goalkeeper is expected to feature in the reserves match at Gateshead tomorrow. Having been the senior statesman at St James' Park for so long, the 36-year-old now finds himself in a fierce battle to hold on to his status.
Not, however, that Fraser Forster made the most of his opportunity to impress yesterday. Having returned from a loan spell at Celtic with his reputation enhanced, the Northumbrian is desperate to feature on the Premier League stage this season.
So the last thing he needed was the horror show that handed Leeds the opening goal on a plate just five minutes in.
Robert Snodgrass curled in a hanging free-kick from the left, and while Patrick Kisnorbo challenged for the ball, Forster should have claimed a routine catch.
Instead, he appeared unnecessarily hesitant, and after the ball fell from his grasp, Kisnorbo tapped home into an empty net.
Forster partially atoned for his error with a fine save from Max Gradel, and Pardew insists yesterday's clanger will not scupper his chances of facing Arsenal on August 13.
"If you put Fraser's mistake to one side, because they can happen, his reaction was good and he made a good save," said Pardew. "He's not out of the frame by any shape or form.
"The plan is to play Harper at Gateshead and (Tim) Krul against Fiorentina. Then I'll choose who the goalkeeper is going to be against Arsenal. I'll probably choose that fairly early that week after I've been fair to all three. They've all had enough game time and it won't be an easy decision to make."
Newcastle's defensive frailties reappeared again in the 67th minute, enabling Leeds to take the lead for a second time after Steven Taylor had equalised.
This time it was Mike Williamson at fault, with the centre-half getting himself into an almighty mess as he tried to shepherd a speculative long pass out of play. The ball bounced off him and fell kindly for substitute Lloyd Sam, who slotted home from a tight angle.
Haris Vuckic levelled things up again with 13 minutes left, but Leeds claimed a winner seven minutes later as Newcastle's defence again went missing.
Ramon Nunez stood up an inviting cross from the right, and substitute Billy Paynter headed home from close range.
It is hardly a situation that is novel to this pre-season, but Newcastle need to tighten things up defensively before the real action begins.
At least their attacking was of a higher standard yesterday. Demba Ba and Shola Ameobi were willing enough runners in attack, although neither striker really looked like scoring, while Yohan Cabaye and Dan Gosling gelled reasonably effectively at the heart of midfield. Even at this early stage, the industrious Cabaye already looks like he could prove the most successful of Newcastle's summer signings.
He was integral to the Magpies' first equaliser yesterday, delivering the left-wing corner that enabled an unmarked Taylor to drill home at the back post.
Vuckic, whose pre-season performances suggest he could make a significant impact on the first-team squad this season, claimed his second goal in as many pre-season games when he drilled home from the edge of the area.
LEEDS (4-5-1): Lonergan; Connolly, Kisnorbo (Bodor 59), O'Brien (Bromby 46), Parker (Lees 59); Snodgrass (Sam 59), Brown, Howson, Clayton (Nunez 65), Gradel (Mendy 65), McCormack (Paynter 65).
Subs (not used): Rachubka (gk), White.
NEWCASTLE (4-4-2): Forster; Simpson (Dummett 79), Williamson, S Taylor, Tavernier (R Taylor 57); Barton, Gosling (Sammy Ameobi 66), Cabaye, Gutierrez (Vuckic 66); Ba, Shola Ameobi (Best 66).
Sub (not used): Krul (gk).