RAFA FLEXES

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Harry Field

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.

PIC­TURE: ProS­ports/ Jar­rod Moore

EYES DOWN: Brent­ford mid­fielder Ryan Woods takes on Daryl Mur­phy

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