HARTLEPOOL United’s Antony Sweeney admits it felt like Newcastle United were playing with “15 men” during spells of their 5-1 mauling.
The Magpies were in the driving seat from the off at Victoria Park last night and were three goals to the good inside just 12 minutes.
Sweeney and co managed to stem the tide thereafter but they rarely enjoyed possession against their Premier League visitors.
And the scorer of the home consolation told SportMail today: “We were saying among ourselves that they shouldn’t be allowed to play with 15 men!
“But it does seem that way at times.
“Our shape has looked very good during pre-season but last night we got found out a little bit against a brilliant side.
“They are sharper all over the pitch.
“We got narrow and thought ‘they can’t play through us’, but then the full-backs just push on and everything goes out of the window.
“You try to combat their formation but then they don’t really have one, they’re just so fluid and pick little pockets to play in.
“You could just sit back and try to frustrate them but then you get nothing out of that.
But I think we showed a little bit of character to keep the score down after those early goals and it was nice to get one personally, although there’s no getting away from the fact we they battered us really.”
Sweeney, though, was still vexed at the nature of the early goals conceded as sloppy defending allowed Alan Pardew’s men to race into that early lead.
“We contributed to our own downfall and thankfully it was a pre-season game and not in the league,” said the midfielder, who took his summer tally to two with a close-range blast in the second half.
“It was always going to be hard but we made it harder for ourselves.
“But I thought they were excellent.
“Everyone has to aspire to be like them and you have to learn your lessons sharpish.
“They eased off the gas a bit in the second half but we did get better and had a little spell of our own
“We’re aware as well that our first game is this weekend at Crewe and what happens then is what counts, but we’ve still got to cut our mistakes like the ones we’ve made.”