New boys Stefan O’Connor and Josef Yarney got Peter Beardsley’s seal of approval as they both made their Newcastle bow in the Under-23s’ win at Darlington.
Former Arsenal man O’Connor, 20, started the game at centre-half alongside Curtis Good in the 2-1 victory at the Northern Echo Arena, while ex-Everton defender Yarney got 45 minutes at the heart of the backline after the break.
And Beardsley admits he liked what he saw from the summer signings.
“Stefan was very good in the first half – him and Curtis made a good pair,” said the Magpies legend. “To be fair to Josef he was really good, really powerful, strong.
“I wouldn’t have thought he’d played in a back three very much but we have so many centre-backs we had to play five.”
Strikes from Sean Longstaff and Ivan Toney ensured the reserves got their summer schedule off to a winning start.
After a dominant opening from the home side, it was Newcastle who took the lead against the run of play.
A clever move involving Toney and Callum Smith ended up at the feet of Longstaff who had all the time in the world to pick his spot, rolling past Peter Jameson in the home goal.
Within two minutes United doubled their lead – Toney, United’s brightest spark in the opening 45, worked a yard of space for himself in the area before hammering into the roof of the net.
It should, have been 3-0 before the half hour when lively Toney was clipped in the area by Jameson, but the striker saw his resulting spot-kick saved by the Darlo keeper.
A lightning quick Darlington break caught the young Magpies on the hop straight after the penalty miss, an unnamed trialist tucking home left-footed to reduce the deficit.
At the break Beardsley made 11 changes and with that, the game lost a lot of fluency. Darlo boss Martin Gray made a host of changes himself.
Probably the best chance of the half fell to Liam Smith, who broke clear of the Darlo backline with around 20 minutes to go, but just as he looked nailed on to add a third he was thwarted by the sprawling figure of Jameson.
Former Hartlepool full-back Jordan Richards curled in a 75th minute free-kick only for the referee to chalk it off for an infringement in the area.
A late Owen Gallacher effort was also saved by Jameson, but Beardsley’s boys were not to be denied their opening win of the summer.
“This is what we live for,” said Beardsley.
“We want to play football, we plan for this week and for the next one.
“That is what football is. It is an exciting time of year.
“At every club at every level players are battling for places.
“You can see the difference – some are ahead of others but that’s normal.
“It’s exciting. I have 30 players at the moment – I had to leave seven or eight at home which isn’t ideal but you would rather have more than less.”