Newcastle United 3-0 Norwich City: Magpies breeze past Canaries in final pre-season game
(Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

Newcastle United ended their pre-season campaign on a high as they comfortably defeated Norwich City in front of a 20,000+ crowd at St James' Park.

After a timid opening 45 minutes from both sides, The Magpies hit The Canaries with a second half flurry that begun when Matt Ritchie bundled the ball into the net from close range on 55 minutes.

Dwight Gayle then doubled Newcastle's lead with a smart finish into the top-corner before grabbing his brace from close range just two minutes from time, courtesy of an inch-perfect cross from Javier Manquillo.

Story of the game

Toon supporters were delighted to see that star striker Callum Wilson returned to the starting line-up for this game, after he missed the last friendly away at Burton Albion with a knock.

The notable absence from Daniel Farke's Norwich side was midfielder Todd Cantwell – a man who has been heavily linked with a move to Aston Villa – who missed out on the trip to Tyneside with an ankle injury.

Despite the Newcastle supporters making plenty of noise, their players on the pitch made a slow start to proceedings, with their opponents bossing the opening 15 minutes.

After just 30 seconds, Max Aarons – who was playing as a wing-back as opposed to his usual position of full-back – made a darting run into the box and managed to get a shot off, but unfortunately for him, his effort dragged just past the post.

The Canaries kept coming, this time two of their new signings, teenage sensation Billy Gilmour and midfielder Pierre Lees-Melou, combined to create the best opportunity of the game. The Scotland international delivered his corner towards the back-post, finding Lees-Melou who found space to volley on target, but Freddie Woodman met it with a solid save.

It took 24 minutes for Newcastle to have their first real attempts on goal. After a scamble inside the box, the ball fell out to Miguel Almiron who struck into a crowd of bodies – it eventually fell in the six-yard area to Wilson, whose acrobatic effort onto goal was easily gathered by former Magpies goalkeeper Tim Krul.

Four minutes later, Matt Ritchie's free-kick found its way to Jacob Murphybut similar to Almiron's effort earlier, it was collected by a crowded penalty area.

The final quarter of the half fell into the traps of a typical pre-season affair, with little to no action on goal occurring, other than the odd attempt that was far from threatening either goalkeeper.

A second half flurry secured a comfortable victory for Newcastle

Steve Bruce made three changes to his Newcastle side at the start of the second half, bringing on Jonjo Shelvey, Ryan Fraser and most notably, fan favourite Allan Saint-Maximin. Fraser and Saint-Maximin in particular started bright, giving the Norwich defenders plenty to worry about early on.

Three minutes after the restart, Fraser latched on some poor Norwich play in their own half as he broke down the left-hand side with pace, but his low-cross towards Saint-Maximin was intercepted by an outstretched Krul.

Fraser continued his impressive start after being introduced. This time he launched a long-ball towards Saint-Maximin, which prompted goalkeeper Krul to come out of his goal and clear the ball. He completely misjudged the ball and lost out to Saint-Maximin with a failed tackle attempt, who then got past the goalkeeper and looked to find a teammate in the box – but eventually the chance came to nothing as Norwich managed to get players back.

But just five minutes later, Newcastle took the lead as Gilmour's attempted pass across the pitch was intercepted and spread wide to Ritchie, who had a curling effort blocked just outside of the box – the block then looped its way towards Wilson, who managed to hold off Christoph Zimmerman before Ritchie swooped in and knocked the ball into the bottom-right corner of the net.

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Norwich looked to respond after going behind by bringing on a number of changes. One of those introduced was Kenny McLean, who shortly after coming on made a surging run towards the Newcastle backline before teeing off from just outside of the penalty area, but his effort was nowhere near from testing Woodman.

Just over 15 minutes from time, Newcastle doubled their lead when Fraser played a defence-splitting ball through to substitute Dwight Gayle who elegantly knocked the ball with the outside of his boot into the top-left corner of the net, leaving Krul with no chance.

Norwich's afternoon nearly got worse as Saint-Maximin's trademark trickery got him in on goal, but as he approached Krul and went to angle his shot, young defender Andrew Omobamidele made a vital last-ditch challenge to nullify the attack.

But just two minutes from time, it did get worse for Norwich as the newly-introduced Javier Manquillo broke down the right-hand side and found Gayle in the centre of the six-yard box, who had the easy job of hitting the back of the net, to secure a resounding victory on home turf for The Magpies.

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Saint-Maximin and Fraser the stars, but a fruitful afternoon for Dwight Gayle in a Newcastle shirt

Yes, it is only pre-season, but thumping a Premier League rival a week before the season starts can only be a positive sign for Newcastle.

They struggled in the opening 20 minutes in particular, with Norwich settling the better and looking the most likely to break the deadlock before the interval.

But once Steve Bruce introduced Ryan Fraser and Allan Saint-Maximin to the game, it was pretty clear which direction this match was going in.

Saint-Maximin, a man his head coach said is "100%" staying at the club this summer, was a cut above the rest – and with better finishing, would have had a few goals himself this afternoon.

It was always felt around The Toon camp that a proper pre-season was needed for Fraser to find his best form in a black and white shirt, after a disappointing first season that was plagued with a lack of fitness and injury.

The Scotsman was one of the best players on the pitch when he was introduced on half-time, and managed to grab an assist for Dwight Gayle's first goal, something that will give him some much-needed confidence heading into the new campaign next week.

On the topic of Newcastle players grabbing some much-needed confidence, Dwight Gayle certainly did that today with his two goals. His first in particular was expertly took, wrapping the ball with the outside of his boot beyond an outstretched Tim Krul.

Gayle is almost certain to be playing a back-up role to Callum Wilson this season, but it has to be said it is a massive relief to see the out-of-form striker find the net with both of his attempts on goal today, albeit in a tune-up game.

The evidence of a pandemic-plagued pre-season for Norwich on full display today

Like reiterated many times, it is only pre-season, but the manner of Norwich's defeat has to be slightly worrying for a side now a week away from facing Liverpool in their opening fixture back in the top flight.

It was obvious that Daniel Farke's side were a wounded animal on Tyneside today. They were missing 10 first-team players due to injury and self-isolation protocols, after a COVID-19 outbreak in their camp saw two of their previous friendlies postponed.

And when Newcastle brought on their big guns in the second half, The Canaries were unable to respond.

Their new look 3-5-2, with Max Aarons and Dimitris Giannouls as wing-backs, left them wide open at the back – and once Newcastle grabbed their second goal of the game, it felt like it was a case of just how many goals would Norwich concede.

But, this is what pre-season is for, testing new tactics and gauging what your strongest team is.

One man who absolutely will be part of that strongest starting line-up is Todd Cantwell, a player who his manager says "rolled his ankle" in training yesterday, hence why he did not play this afternoon.

They missed their number 14 massively today, and you can see after the team's performance without him today, exactly why the Norwich hierarchy have slapped a massive £45 million price tag on his name.

Starting XI's

Newcastle United: Woodman; Murphy, Krafth, Fernandez, Clark, Ritchie; Hayden, S. Longstaff; Almiron; Joelinton, Wilson. (5-2-1-2)

Norwich City: Krul; Omobamidele, Zimmerman, Gibson; Aarons, Rupp, Gilmour, Lees-Melou, Giannoulis; Dowell, Idah. (3-5-2)