Newcastle United U21 0 Carlisle United 2: Depending on when you looked at this game, Carlisle United seemed nearly there and still a fair way off. It was a day for firm conclusions and also none. What did we learn? Things we already knew, by and large, and therefore nothing, but also something.

Paul Simpson’s Carlisle are at their best when at high tempo and persistent in the press. Owen Moxon can, when in the mood (which is often) dictate a match’s terms. Jordan Gibson remains their most inventive player of pre-season.

They are still some strikers light. They are not good enough to turn down the dial and still expect to ransack teams. They can outmuscle and outzip high-end Under-21 teams. They can also be unsettled by them.

Little there that counts as breaking news. With less than two weeks now until the League One season, Carlisle appear to be well down the road fitness-wise. The full-game sharpness will be installed over the last fortnight, and the final two friendlies, as was always the intention.

Simpson’s preferred shape is clear and who fills it in some respects is glaringly obvious. Who else fills and enhances a couple of those crucial squad positions would seem to be the last unknown, and a rather important one, as the clock ticks towards 2023/24.

In the first half on this mizzly day at Gateshead, Carlisle showed their stronger suit, but even then reminded you of what they are still missing: attacking bodies, that final piece of panache, or poaching, in the final third.

Much else that they did in the first 45, against Newcastle’s young hopefuls, was good. They were swifter and stronger than their hosts, more rounded in the game’s harder areas. Moxon, back from an injury niggle, got his passing range going and Gibson, playing off the front line, would surely be in Carlisle’s XI if their season started tomorrow.

Familiarity was present in the games of Jack Armer, Jon Mellish, Paul Huntington, Callum Guy. Given their light striker numbers, Ryan Edmondson has been given a real chance to get his eye in here, and with two close-range finishes in a week he is clearly getting there.

News and Star: Jon Mellish cuts in from the leftJon Mellish cuts in from the left (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Simpson will have been pleased with the urgency of Carlisle’s first half, if not their clinical habits. In the second half he will have been less chuffed, noting a dropping-off of intensity which was met by a brighter Newcastle performance which was given a splash of energy by some under-18 substitutes.

There was still, in the end, a second goal, Edmondson slotting in to add to the earlier OG he’d forced from Newcastle’s Michael Ndiweni. Yet what preceded that in the second 45 was of little consequence or colour.

So be it, in friendlies which are for exactly this purpose: reinforcing the good and highlighting the bad. It was not the sort of contest Carlisle can expect in League One but instead an examination of their movement, technique and staying power.

As their fans settled into their seats in an uncovered section of Gateshead’s stadium – an illogical segregation, given the vacant expanse of the covered main stand and the fact this was not exactly a game of tribal fury and heaving numbers – Simpson’s opening XI overpowered Newcastle’s attempted neatness.

Their combination of interplay, switches of direction and direct targeting of Edmondson up front and Armer to the left offered several opportunities. Alfie McCalmont, Gibson and Mellish, the latter back on his former home ground, had early ones, Guy and Gibson had further ones and for much of it Newcastle looked callow, without the muscle to worry the more hardened Blues.

Eventually the opening goal came – Gibson crossing, Edmondson flicking and the ball ricocheting in off swiping black-and-white bodies on the line – and the only criticism of the half is that Carlisle did not take more. Gibson whacked the left-hand post, Guy drove wide, Gibson was denied by Max Thompson with a sharp free-kick; other positions nearly, but not quite, worked the trick.

The other end was a safe zone, Sam Lavelle blocking one of Newcastle’s few attempts of note, yet this changed after Ben Dawson made three interval substitutions. The young arrivals, notably the darting Dylan Charlton down the left, added immediate buzz to the home side’s play.

News and Star: Ryan Edmondson slides in to score Carlisle's late secondRyan Edmondson slides in to score Carlisle's late second (Image: Barbara Abbott)

This coincided with a less vibrant response from United’s players as they went about, in some cases, their first 90 minutes of the summer. Newcastle’s game grew quicker as Carlisle’s slowed. There should have been a breakaway second, when Gibson was superbly denied by Will Brown and then when the sub keeper thwarted the dribbling Moxon, but things grew flat from there.

Newcastle found a gap in the box through sub James Huntley, who failed to head past Tomas Holy, while Lucas De Bolle showed some poise in front of Carlisle’s defence. An equaliser would not have flattered them in this period but United at least averted that, and then nailed victory down when Guy threaded, Armer crossed and Edmondson snaffled two minutes from time.

It was a good way to finish – a reminder to the young bucks that it’s what happens in front of the posts that counts the most – and good for Edmondson to tick his tally along. He is on his way; the next two weeks will tell us to what extent United are too.