BOSS Alan Pardew says Newcastle United’s key players are ready to make a bigger impression on the Premier League.
The Magpies – wearing a black and white halved shirt later described as a “new members home kit” – wrapped up their pre-season campaign with a 1-1 draw against Braga at St James’s Park on Saturday night.
After a largely pedestrian first half, which saw visiting captain Alan score from the penalty spot, a re-energised Newcastle fought back after the break and levelled with a Fabricio Coloccini header.
Pardew felt the second period was a better indication of where his team is at ahead of the season-opener at Manchester City next Monday.
“Like all pre-season games, it’s difficult to assess the team because the opposition were a different type of team,” Pardew said.
“The ref was stop-start a bit too much. In the first half, we treated it like a friendly. In the second half, we didn’t and we were a lot more at it, more positive and more aggressive. That showed.
“That’s what we are going to have to be like at Man City if we’re going to win the game.”
To win at the Etihad Stadium, Pardew needs his key players in form, and he has been heartened by what he has seen in recent weeks.
Pardew is confident the likes of Coloccini, Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa are fit and ready to hit the ground running in the Premier League. Newcastle are determined to put last season’s domestic difficulties behind them, and aim to challenge in the top half of the table.
Reflecting on Newcastle’s seven-game pre-season, Pardew added: “I’m satisfied in terms of where we are at.
“The Braga game showed that we are strong and fit. Everybody looks in good focus. So I’m pleased that some of our big players did well.
“They will be the ones that will carry us through the season.
“Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Mapou (Yanga-Mbiwa), the two keepers, (Yohan) Cabaye looks like he’s got the bit between his teeth and Hatem (Ben Arfa) looks stronger every game. The big players look in good nick and hopefully we can put a team out at Man City that represents the pre-season that we’ve had.”
There were a few signs of life from Newcastle against Braga.
A bulked-up Ben Arfa showed flashes of his talent in each half, and second-half substitute Paul Dummett underlined his potential with an energetic performance off the bench.
Also, Pardew’s side scored from a corner, something they did not manage to do all last season.
Braga took advantage of a careless trip from Mathieu Debuchy on Felipe Pardo as the break approached, with captain Alan converting the resulting penalty.
Coloccini levelled in the 60th minute, the defender heading home a Ben Arfa flag-kick.
Five minutes later, the Argentinian, already dismissed once this pre-season, hauled down Yazalde as he headed goalwards and was fortunate to stay on the pitch.
NEWCASTLE: Elliot (Krul 46); Debuchy (S Taylor, 76), Yanga-Mbiwa, Coloccini, Santon (Cabaye 46); Ben Arfa (Obertan 88), Tiote (Dummett 46), Sissoko (Anita 77), Gutierrez (Sammy Ameobi 52); Shola Ameobi (Gouffran 63), Cisse (Marveaux 77). Sub: Gosling. Booking: Coloccini 65. Goal: Coloccini 60
BRAGA: Eduardo (Cristiano 46); Baiano (Joao Pedro 81), Vinicius (Custodio 46), Aderlan Santos, Joaozinho (Hanin 88); Alan (Coelho 46), Carlos (Agra 46), Mauro (Helder Barbosa 78), Micael (Luis Silva 67); Edinho (Yazalde 46), Pardo (Rafa 46). Sub not used: Pedro Santos
Att: 16,187. Ref: Lee Mason (Bolton)