NEWCASTLE United head coach Howe is taking some encouragement from last night’s friendly defeat to Benfica but is now sweating over the fitness of midfielder Jonjo Shelvey.

The Magpies lost 3-2 in the final of the Eusebio Cup to the Portuguese Champions League side with Miguel Almiron scoring both the goals for the away side. However, the 30-year-old Shelvey limped off in the second half of the game.

Howe’s side were reduced to ten men late on in the game when Joelinton was sent off for a dangerous challenge.

“It was a very good performance from us tonight” Howe said after the game at the Stadio du Luz. “I thought it was a really good game with real high quality, for me it was a Premier League game in terms of standard.

“I thought the players were excellent. Yes we conceded three goals, two from set plays and one worldie free-kick, you can’t do a lot about that.

“The corner we will review and then the goal when we are down to ten men is really disappointing because I think it took the gloss off a very good night for us.”

As Newcastle tick off the minutes during pre-season, Howe admitting that there was plenty to take away from the defeat. He continued: “Really good signs because the start of the game was difficult for us. I thought they were a very good team and they made it difficult for us but we withstood that early pressure. Even after conceding, we fought our way back.

“I thought we scored two great goals tonight. Really good team goals both scored by Miggy (Almiron). He could have had another one as well so I thought he had a really good evening but there was some really good signs in both halves. The players gave everything for the result.”

Newcastle have two more friendlies to come later this week against Atalanta and Athletic Bilbao but look like they will be without Shelvey for those games at the least.

Howe added: “It looked like a hamstring problem. I don’t know whether it’s a strain or whether it’s cramp or what it is at this moment, we hope it’s not serious.

“He’s worked really hard to get himself in a really good physical condition. That would be a huge blow for him and for us.”

The hope is that the former Swansea City midfielder will be available for their opening Premier League game of the season against Nottingham Forest next Saturday.