Rochdale AFC 2 Newcastle United Foundation 1
Newcastle United Foundation A narrowly failed to take an unbeaten record into 2021 following an agonising 2-1 defeat at Rochdale.
But coach Terry Mitchell insisted lessons would be learnt in the wake of an untimely loss and tipped his table toppers to bounce back next month.
The Foundation’s A team — featuring the cream of Newcastle College’s student footballers — headed to the North West with six wins and a draw under their belts.
But Rochdale had only lost once this season and already look like potential title contenders with games in hand on their Northern Premier Division rivals.
“It was a game of set plays and we just came off worse,” admitted Mitchell.
“It was a fantastic match for the neutral and Rochdale were every bit as strong as we thought they’d be.
“There were some powerful lads in their team and some very good footballers. It was a strong test of just how far we’ve come.
“I didn’t think we deserved to lose and we had some great chances in the second half.
“I was pleased with the performance, especially after the break, and there were plenty of positives to take into Christmas.”
United’s Foundation works alongside Newcastle College to offer talented athletes a unique post-16 dual career option.
And Mitchell now oversees four squads of college players as a tried and tested programme continues to thrive.
“I’m really pleased with how things have gone across the board this season,” he added. “It’s been a tough time for everyone but the students have worked really hard.
“It’s fantastic to have all four teams playing well and to see students of all abilities stepping up.”
The Magpies got off to the worst possible start in Rochdale when the visitors conceded a penalty within the first 30 minutes.
Josh Wilson made a smart stop but the hosts were first to the loose ball and followed up to open the scoring.
“First of all it was clear penalty and so I had no complaints there,” added Mitchell. “But we learnt a harsh lesson after Josh saved the spot kick.
“They followed up on the penalty and we didn’t. It’s as simple as that. It’s a basic and we just took our eye off the ball.
“Josh made another good save before the break but there wasn’t really anything to choose between two competitive teams.
“Both sides put together some impressive approach play but neither team was making an impact in the final third.
“At half time we had a chat about some technical stuff as Rochdale’s formation was causing us a few problems.
“But once we ironed that out the lads looked a lot better in the second half.”
Newcastle claimed a penalty of their own in the 61st minute when Rhys McLeod was upended in the area.
Skipper Lewis Bateman calmly dispatched the equaliser but United were behind again with a minute.
Rochdale earned a corner from the restart and managed to bundle home their second goal of the game to lead 2-1 with 28 minutes to play.
“We created some really good chances after that but just couldn’t take them,” added Mitchell.
“The second half performance was much improved and overall it’s been a really positive start to the season.
“We’ll take a break and then get back at it in time for what will be a tough trip to Burnley in the first week of January.”
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