Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Friendly It Might Be, but It's a Serious Game When It Comes to Giving Toon a Morale Boost; Newcastle ...... 2 Lillestrom ...... 1

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Friendly It Might Be, but It's a Serious Game When It Comes to Giving Toon a Morale Boost; Newcastle ...... 2 Lillestrom ...... 1

Article excerpt

Byline: Lee Ryder Chief Sports Writer twitter: @lee_ryder

DISMISSED by some as a "meaningless friendly", Newcastle United's hardfought win over battling Norwegian side Lillestrom could yet prove to be one of the most important results of the season - especially if they can make the most of the morale boost and the indepth and open discussions behind the scenes at their plush La Manga hotel.

A hurting United side may not have picked up Premier League points for their victory at the La Manga Stadium, but this narrow win restored some confidence and perhaps helped heal a few psychological wounds inflicted by Chelsea during that 5-1 loss at Stamford Bridge.

Against a Lillestrom side desperate to earn a scalp, United had to dig deep to pull off their victory as the Norwegian side threw everything at them.

Newcastle also had a different look about them after Steve McClaren handed Jonjo Shelvey the armband.

The Toon boss is eager to see more leaders on the field during United's battle against relegation.

In Shelvey, he may well have found one. The England international boomed out orders around the pitch as Fabricio Coloccini was rested for the day.

The game also resulted in Gini Wijnaldum playing with more freedom. Wijnaldum has looked like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders away from home in recent times.

But some of those away-day blues seemed to evaporate into the mild Spanish air on Saturday afternoon.

Wijnaldum was pinging the ball around like he does at St James' Park and scored in the third minute against Lillestrom following a well-constructed move involving Ayoze Perez.

And as Wijnaldum rounded the keeper and slotted home, he looked relieved to get back on the scoresheet, regardless of the friendly nature of the fixture.

Yet the goal seemed to rattle the Norwegian side.

Friendly or not, Lillestrom wanted what they felt would be a creditable victory over Premier League opponents.

The Norwegian Press pack outnumbered England's representatives by some margin, with only Chroniclelive providing coverage of this fixture.

And with English football huge in Scandinavia, a Norwegian TV crew pulled out all of the stops to get every angle covered as part of a live broadcast. …

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