BREWERS SPOOK RE­LIEVED BEN­ITEZ

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Stephen Thirkill

ATRIP to Bur­ton may not go down as one of Rafa Ben­itez’s most glam­orous gigs, but the Spa­niard con­ceded he has had far eas­ier scraps in his time.

The for­mer Liver­pool and Real Madrid boss trav­elled back up to New­cas­tle with three points, but only just, as the bat­tling Brewers ral­lied fol­low­ing first-half goals from Dwight Gayle and Mo Di­ame.

“We knew it was go­ing to be dif­fi­cult and it was,” said Ben­itez. “We did well con­trol­ling the first half. We had to de­fend in the sec­ond half and you have to give Bur­ton credit. I’m pleased with the team­work and at­ti­tude of our play­ers.

“We showed char­ac­ter. We are find­ing the bal­ance be­tween play­ing nice foot­ball and work­ing hard and get­ting three points, which win­ning teams have to do.

“It is a good time for the fans. We are in a good po­si­tion and we can en­joy some time now with the fam­i­lies. This was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for us and the play­ers adapted well.”

Bur­ton suf­fered a late de­feat to high-fly­ing Hud­der­s­field in mid­week and were de­nied what should have been a de­served share of the spoils in their first-ever meet­ing with New­cas­tle.

The plucky Brewers had lev­elled through Lloyd Dyer four min­utes af­ter Gayle hit his 17th goal of the cam­paign.

But Di­ame’s cool fin­ish knocked the stuff­ing out of Nigel Clough’s side as they strug­gled to turn pos­ses­sion into chances.

The Brewers ral­lied in the clos­ing stages of the game, but United held on to se­cure their ninth win in 11.

The re­sult leaves Bur­ton hov­er­ing just above the drop zone – but boss Clough believes his side are lay­ing the plat­form for Cham­pi­onship sur­vival.

“Our lads were out­stand­ing in ev­ery­thing they did,” said Clough.

“There was qual­ity as well as ef­fort in our per­for­mance. We have put two out­stand­ing per­for­mances in dur­ing our last two games and got no points.

“Things will change in the sec­ond half of the sea­son if we keep that up. We have got per­for­mances rather than points which is frus­trat­ing.

“They play­ers have put in a lot of ef­fort in the last two games and it’s hard to take.

“We are not too far away and we hope that we will get a break here or there.”

United hit the front thanks to Gayle’s su­perb back­heel af­ter Bur­ton were caught on the break on 16 min­utes.

Dyer con­verted John Bray­ford’s cross from close range four min­utes later to level.

It her­alded a good spell of pos­ses­sion for the Brewers, with­out craft­ing any open­ings.

And they were made to pay when Di­ame turned Damien McCrory on the edge of the box be­fore calmly fir­ing past Jon McLaugh­lin on 34 min­utes.

John Mous­inho alertly blocked Matt Ritchie’s goal­bound shot as New­cas­tle looked to kill the game off on the hour mark.

Lu­cas Akins hor­ri­bly skied an ef­fort into the away end on 75 min­utes af­ter great work down the wing by Dyer found him in space.

Bur­ton sub Jamie Ward turned well be­fore fir­ing just past the post, be­fore Dyer cracked a long-range ef­fort into a crowd of play­ers.

Karl Dar­low nearly dropped Ward’s long-range piledriver into his own net in stop­page time, be­fore Tom Nay­lor hit the side-net­ting as time fi­nally ran out for Bur­ton.

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

HOW ABOUT THAT: Mo­hamed Di­ame cel­e­brates scor­ing the Mag­pies’ sec­ond goal

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

TIGHT FIN­ISH: Dwight Gayle opens the scor­ing with a classy back­heel

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