Carlisle United 0 Newcastle United 3
IT was this time last year that Newcastle United’s players held an emergency team meeting which helped launch the club on the long road to redemption and Premier League promotion.
Thrashed 6-1 by plucky League One minnows Leyton Orient, Newcastle’s shell-shocked stars knew it was time to sort the wheat from the chaff; to sort out those who were willing to stay at St James’ Park to try and repair the damage and those who were more concerned with running away from the mess.
It was a pivotal turning point in Newcastle’s season, it may even turn out to be a defining moment in the club’s history, as the unbreakable team spirit and unwavering collective will were forged in the fires of a sizzling, no-holds-barred inquisition.
We will never know whether that spirit would have grown without that 6-1 humiliation at Brisbane Road, although Newcastle fans will be relieved that this year’s pre-season preparations have got underway without any of the drama and malevolence of 12 months ago.
Newcastle were comfortably too good for Carlisle United on Saturday, despite a sloppy first-half performance which enabled this summer’s League One opponents to give them a few hairy moments at the back.
Gary Madine should have given them the lead when he was sent clear by Tom Taiwo’s through ball, but his lob beat Steve Harper only to land on the roof of the net, after Jose Enrique had been called upon to clear an Ian Harte header off the line with a little bit of help from the crossbar.
United were disjointed and sluggish in the first 45 minutes, but after both teams had made changes at the break, the two-division gap between the clubs was plain to see.
In fact, if competition for places is already hotting up at St James’ Park it will be those who played the second-half rather than the first who have drawn first blood, most notably Joey Barton and Danny Guthrie in the centre of midfield, and the excellent Wayne Routledge on the right wing.
There was also a first goal in a Newcastle shirt from Leon Best, who showed a clinical touch to round goalkeeper Adam Collin, two minutes after the restart, before Routledge set up Nile Ranger for the second with a powerful run and cross.
And Haris Vuckic gave an indication of his vast potential with a superbly taken shot on the turn to complete the scoring.