Duff hits pre-season hat-trick to beat Hartlepool
Damien Duff claimed a fine hat-trick as Newcastle launched their pre-season campaign with a comfortable victory at Hartlepool.
The Republic of Ireland international cancelled out Matty Robson's opener five minutes before the break and then added a second from debutant Danny Guthrie's pass before making it 4-1 at the death.
In the meantime, Guthrie had marked his arrival on Tyneside with a deflected 53rd-minute strike.
Kevin Keegan's side endured a testing start as the League One outfit took the game to them, but they eventually made their Barclays Premier League class tell and were worthy winners in front of a crowd of 4,249.
Keegan was without the injured Michael Owen, Mark Viduka, Habib Beye and Steve Harper, while Abdoulaye Faye and Geremi returned to training later than their team-mates after World Cup qualifiers during the summer.
James Milner, who has been linked with both Liverpool and Aston Villa this summer, started in central midfield with Duff playing on the right, a position which could yet be filled by summer signing Jonas Gutierrez when the season gets under way.
The home side took the lead with 16 minutes gone when midfielder Robson ran on to Joel Porter's ball down the left and chipped a shot past Shay Given at his near post.
Newcastle were laboured in their efforts to get back into the game, but they were level five minutes from the break when Duff collected Milner's pass and cut inside before curling a left-foot shot past keeper Arran Lee-Barratt.
Ben Clark had to clear Obafemi Martins' scuffed effort off the line seconds later, and it took a fine save from Lee-Barratt to keep out Charles N'Zogbia's 44th-minute shot as it skidded off the rain-soaked turf with the Magpies warming to their task.
Guthrie arrived as a half-time replacement for Jose Enrique, while Shola Ameobi came on for Martins, and the former Liverpool midfielder made a swift impact when he picked out Duff, who held off Clark to slot past Lee-Barratt with 52 minutes gone.
Guthrie helped himself to the third goal within seconds when his long-range shot was deflected past the keeper.
Ameobi miskicked in front of an open goal with 56 minutes gone as the visitors threatened to run riot, but after landing an 80th-minute cross on the bar, Duff completed his hat-trick with another deft finish two minutes from time.
Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan hailed a rejuvenated Damien Duff after watching the midfielder plunder a hat-trick at Hartlepool.
The manager said: 'He looks very sharp. It's the first time in three or four years that he has had a pre-season.
'He has missed all pre-season training in the last three and any pro will tell you, that is of major importance to get that in because it gives you a base for the season.
'He has looked very sharp. He says his weight is down to what it was when he was 17, 18, and he looked like a 17 or 18-year-old out there.
'He was very good and the three goals were nice to see. He has worked very, very hard, as have all the players.'
Keegan admitted he arrived at Victoria Park with limited outfield options as Michael Owen joined Mark Viduka on the sidelines with a sore calf muscle, while Steve Harper and Habib Beye were also missing with Abdoulaye Faye and Geremi having been given extended summer breaks.
New signing Jonas Gutierrez was in the stands as he waits for his registration to be processed, but fellow recruit Guthrie did get his chance.
Keegan said: 'He was very good. I wanted to play him from the start, but he has just had a little bit of a problem. They do get a lot of niggles at this time of the year.
'He has had a little bit of a problem with sore shins, so we just backed off.
'But he came on for the second half and within four or five minutes, he had made a goal and scored a goal.
'I think he will be a tremendous asset to us. He is a typical Liverpool player, he passes the ball really well and you don't see him give it away very often.
'The goal was probably a bonus.'
The game came with the Magpies' recruitment department still scouring the globe for signings, and their need to make several more breakthroughs was reflected by their bench.
Of the nine substitutes named, only Guthrie and Shola Ameobi have any Premier League experience, and Keegan admitted the need for more bodies is pressing.
He said: 'There have definitely got to be some more in the pipeline. We only had two players (on the bench) today who I would call senior players with us, so that gave us a total of 12 outfield players.
'We are like a lot of clubs at the moment, everyone is waiting for something to happen. We are still looking.
'They will definitely be in by the end of the transfer window because you just can't go into the Premier League with this small squad we have got.
'But everyone is working hard and we will see what happens.'