DWIGHT GAYLE may have caught the headlines with his goals this season but manager Rafael Benitez was just as delighted to see the supporting cast step up to the mark to move them back to the top of the table.
It had looked like being a familiar tale for the Magpies when Gayle bagged his 20th of the campaign to become the first Newcastle player to find the net that many times in a season since Alan Shearer in 2003-04.
But a hamstring injury saw him withdrawn on 28 minutes to be replaced by Daryl Murphy, before Lasse Vibe equalised after the break for the hosts.
It got worse for Newcastle with Isaac Hayden then substituted with a groin problem before his replacement, Vurnon Anita, had to leave the field with what Benitez hinted could be a broken ankle. That was not the end of the rollercoaster for Mapgies fans though with Murphy heading in his first league goal for the club to seal the win.
“I was really pleased with the players coming off the bench because they needed to perform in a difficult game,” said Benitez, whose side sit a point clear at the top after Brighton lost to Preston.
“It was a great goal from Murphy. He played against Preston in the Cup and after that he got injured but he has always trained really well. He’s experienced in the division and is a good example for others.
“We had to make three subs with injuries so it was not easy for us, so we needed to manage with system.
“We knew that it would be a difficult game. We knew that they play good football and at the same time we knew that maybe we could be exposed on the counterattack. I’m sure the fans will be very proud of this team because they were working so hard in a difficult situation.”
After shooting tamely at Daniel Bentley early on, Gayle made no mistake when he raced onto Ayoze Perez’s pass down the left before firing home from a tight angle.
Perez should have doubled the lead after a neat one-two with Yoan Gouffran but Bentley saved well.
EYES DOWN: Brentford midfielder Ryan Woods takes on Daryl Murphy