Darlington 0 Newcastle Utd 2
It only took three minutes of the new season for Captain Fantastic Joey Barton to have the Toon fans celebrating. NEWCASTLE UNITED: Forster; Simpson (Dummett), S Taylor (Tavernier), Williamson (Henderson), Ferguson (R Taylor); Barton (Abeid), Guthrie (Cabaye, Donaldson), Smith (Gosling), Vuckic (Sammy Ameobi); Ben Arfa (Richardson), Best (Ranger). Subs not used: Soderberg, Newton. Attendance: 9,729 VIDEO OF THE TROUBLE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yWM__kgvwg Barton, and Sammy Ameobi, ensured a win in United's pre-season campaign – but the game was marred by a pitch invasion. New signings Yohan Cabaye and Mehdi Abeid made their debuts in last night’s 2-0 victory over Darlington at the Northern Echo Arena, and Hatem Ben Arfa made a successful comeback from long-term injury. It has been a frustrating week for stand-in captain Barton (which had seen him denied a visa for the club’s tour of the United States) but he opened the scoring to lift the spirits of the travelling supporters. Alan Smith lofted a ball into the box, and it was from Leon Best’s knock down that Barton calmly beat Sam Russell in the Darlington goal. The Toon Army started signing “Ashley, sign him up”, for the owner to hand Barton a new deal, but I'm sure it fell on deaf ears as Ashley is more interested in golf these days. Danny Guthrie limped off 10 minutes later, and new signing Yohan Cabaye entered the field of play. Cabaye was handed a deep-lying role in United’s midfield in front of the back four, but he looked far more inventive than being just a holding player. Ben Arfa, making his long-awaited comeback from a double leg break, gently eased himself back into competitive action, although there was groans from the Toon Army each time he was tackled by the opposition. Leon Best, another player Alan Pardew is looking to off-load this summer, forced several saves from Russell later in the half, but Newcastle couldn’t add to their advantage before the interval. Ben Arfa was visibly more confident after the break, and the 24-year-old started to be more lively around the Darlo penalty area. So much so he had a hand in Ameobi’s goal 10 minutes into the half, the low strike prompting a pitch invasion from dozens of visiting fans which held the game up for 10 minutes. After the restart the game was over as a contest and I think all 22 players wanted to get off the pitch as soon as they could, should another goal spark another invasion. United comfortably saw it out, with little or no attacking options from Darlo to put them under pressure. Pardew didn't include Jose Enrique in his squad, prefering to leave him at home for fear of some sort of fan's reaction - good or bad - from the Toon Army. The want-away defender could have played his last game on English soil in a Toon shirt. Do we read anything into Fraser Forster starting in goal? He certainly didn't look as confident as Tim Krul, and he hugs his line a little too much for my liking. But it is early days.
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