Southend 0 Newcastle 2: Benitez close to finalising Magpies’ starting XI for Championship opener at Fulham

Yoan Gouffran blasts home Newcastle's second goal at Southend
Yoan Gouffran blasts home Newcastle's second goal at Southend
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Rafa Benitez is close to finalising his team for Newcastle United’s season-opener against Fulham.

Benitez’s side beat Southend United 2-0 at Roots Hall last night.

Vurnon Anita and Yoan Gouffran were on target against Phil Brown’s side.

And United manager Benitez felt it was a “solid performance” from his team, which is unbeaten so far in pre-season.

The club wraps up its pre-season campaign with a home game against Vitesse Arnhem on Saturday.

“It was a solid performance,” said Benitez.

“We needed to do the job.

“The first half, they were a little bit better physically, but little by little we were controlling the game and we were just trying to play counter-attack.

“As soon as we scored the first goal, it was clear that they needed to take more risks and we could manage it a bit better.

“We have to improve. It was a solid performance – the team was fine – but still we have to improve and hopefully we can adjust two or three things in one week and we will be a little bit better.”

Benitez is close to finalising his starting XI for the club’s visit to Craven Cottage on August 5.

Asked about his team selection for the Fulham game, he said: “We will see.

“We gave 60 minutes to the majority of the players and we will try to do similar things on Saturday.”

Vurnon Anita’s cracking strike set up the Magpies at a humid Roots Hall.

Anita, playing on the right side of midfield, intercepted a loose ball 20 yards from goal and lashed a fierce shot into the far corner of the net.

Yoan Gouffran slammed home a late second goal in a game which saw Grant Hanley, signed from Blackburn last week, make his first appearance for the Tynesiders as a second-half sub.

Newcastle were physically tested by a direct Southend side, who attempted to play counter-attacking football, with Benitez pleased by his side’s performance.

Anita, eager to claim a starting spot for the Magpies’ Championship opener at Fulham a week on Friday, said: “It’s good for the team to have won, although there are still things we have to improve.

“It was nice to play in that position, and nice to score the goal. I saw the chance was available, and thankfully I took it. I was a bit more advanced down the right-hand side than usual, but it was nice to be able to show that I can play in that role.”

Benitez fielded Anita on the right in the absence through injury of summer signing Matt Ritchie. Asked about Anita’s strike, he said: “I’m really pleased. We were talking about pressing, and we regained (the ball) and he scored.

“It was good, and after a good goal from Gouffran.

“It was also good for the team. It was another clean sheet. We conceded maybe one or two chances, not too many. Again, I would say in the Championship you have to concede even less.”

Newcastle now wrap up their pre-season campaign with a home game against Vitesse Arnhem on Saturday.

On last night, Benitez said: “It was a solid performance. We needed to do the job. The first half, they were a little bit better physically, but little by little we were controlling the game and we were just trying to play counter-attack.

“As soon as we scored the first goal, it was clear that they needed to take more risks and we could manage it a bit better.

“We have to improve. It was a solid performance – the team was fine – but still we have to improve and hopefully we can adjust two or three things in one week and we will be a little bit better. We gave 60 minutes to the majority of the players and we will try to do similar things on Saturday.”

Newcastle: Darlow; Janmaat (Sterry 63), Mbemba (Hanley 63), Lascelles, Dummett; Hayden (Colback 63), Shelvey (Saivet 73); Anita (Thauvin 78), Perez (Mitrovic 73), Aarons (Gouffran 63); Gayle (Armstrong 63). Sub not used: Sels.

Goals: Anita 47, Gouffran 78. Att: 6,570 (1,012 away)