EDDIE Howe and his Newcastle United side can afford to be pleased with themselves for having gone toe-to-toe with Champions League opposition twice this week and giving a very strong account of themselves. In tonight’s game against Atalanta, one or two individuals stood out but a team performance managed to see the Magpies over the line in front of raucous home support as pre-season neared it’s completion.

The open procedures saw Newcastle enjoy the lions share of possession but were failing to make clear in roads and snatched at a number of key passes. Luis Muriel was the first to threaten for the visitors as he flashed a venomous shot wide of the post as the Magpies failed to clear their lines.

It had all the hallmarks of a pre-season game for hosts with crossed wires and misplaced passes as they struggled to find their groove. It played into the hands of Atalanta who forced Nick Pope into a smart save tipping over Duvan Zapata’s powerful strike to the near post.

Newcastle started to exert pressure of their own just after the half hour mark when Sean Longstaff’s dinked cross found Matt Targett at the back post. He kept the attack alive with a header intended for Chris Wood but Caleb Okoli Memeh came to the rescue to head out from underneath his own crossbar. Their tails were up from there and a heavily backed crowd started to get right behind them.

Elliot Anderson may well be pinching himself at the chance he’s been given to be in and around the first-team this season and he’s done his cause no harm when he was on hand to win a penalty as he was bundled onto the floor. With five minutes to go, Chris Wood was on hand to dispatch from 12 yards sending the keeper the wrong and driving the ball into the bottom left hand corner.

Heading into the second half and Anderson was once again at the heart of the action. After finding room on the edge of the box, he sold the Atalanta defence with a dummied shot before seeing his bending left footed effort tipped round the post as Marco Sportiello sprawled across his line to deny the youngster.

Atalanta were beginning to tire and Newcastle began to move up another gear as they moved the ball around the pitch with ease. Kieran Trippier was being the orchestrator by talking his team mates through the game while Anderson was running things in midfield. Another nice passing move saw Miguel Almiron dart past his man in the box but Sportiello’s outstretched leg blocked the effort to deny the hosts once again.

Ederson threatened the Newcastle goal with a bending shot that flew over the bar from distance while Muriel forced Pope into a save with a free-kick on the edge of the box but their performance was having their manager Gian Piero Gasperini flailing his arms on the touchline.

Towards the end of the game, Atalanta’s energy levels were heavily enhanced by a flurry of substitutions while Eddie Howe’s plan to field two different elevens in friendlies just two days apart remained. The head coach wanted to see his players get 90 minutes of action and the home side had to deal with partial moments of pressure but did so tellingly. Matty Targtt had the best chance to double the lead in the remaining five minutes as a lovely flick from Chris Wood teed up the full-back but he saw his shot inside the box palmed up into the air by sub keeper Franceso Rossi.

Newcastle manged to see out the win in front of over 40,000 Newcastle supporters who saw a mixed bag performance. Overall, there will be a sense of satisfaction of delivering a strong display against Champions League opposition for the second time in a week. Now for Atletico Bilbao tomorrow before it all begins next week against Nottingham Forest.