BREWERS SPOOK RELIEVED BENITEZ
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.
HOW ABOUT THAT: Mohamed Diame celebrates scoring the Magpies’ second goal
TIGHT FINISH: Dwight Gayle opens the scoring with a classy backheel