Making his first start in over five weeks, Dwight Gayle hardly got a kick in the 33 minutes he was on the pitch.
Looking a shadow of his usual self, the number nine struggled to get into the game and the odd time he did get the ball, his touch was totally off.
Speaking after the match, Rafa Benitez was clearly thinking that if he’d had the same decision to make again, he wouldn’t have started with Dwight Gayle against Aston Villa.
The United boss says that he was happy with how Gayle was training but that ‘putting everything together’, he indicated that it had proved the wrong move.
As well as the hamstring issue picked up at Brentford, Rafa referenced the fact that the Newcastle forward had had a baby girl only on Saturday and hadn’t been sleeping much.
Hamstring injuries are notoriously difficult to judge and obviously you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t at times.
If Rafa had started with Dwight Gayle on the bench and things had gone pear-shaped last night, everybody would have been asking why the Championship’s top scorer hadn’t started – especially when he came on as a substitute at Norwich six days earlier looking his usual self.
Unlike Alan Pardew, I’m sure there is no way Rafa Benitez would have played Dwight Gayle if he had thought there was any likelihood of him breaking down and indeed eight days ago, on the eve of the Norwich match, he sad this when asked about the striker’s availability:
“It depends on him.
“He is training with the team and he has trained OK.
“But sometimes it is the confidence of the player, so we will see how he feels."
So before the Villa match, you can take for granted that the Manager will have asked Gayle the same questions but just like every other decent player, you can only imagine the number nine was desperate to play.
The problem as well being that training can only tell you so much and stepping up to a match situation is a totally different level, with greater demands on the body when you are giving 100%.
Here’s hoping he is back fully fit as soon as possible.
Rafa Benitez after Newcastle 2 Aston Villa 0:
“Dwight Gayle was doing well in training.
“He had a baby last week and some days he was not sleeping,
“Maybe putting everything together…he wasn’t that comfortable from the start.
“We had to make the substitution and it is the same problem.
“He will miss some games but hopefully it isn’t too bad."
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 Aston Villa 0
Newcastle: Gouffran 42, Lansbury OG 59
Possession was Villa 45% Newcastle 55%
Total shots were Villa 8 Newcastle 14
Shots on target were Villa 1 Newcastle 6
Corners were Villa 4 Newcastle 6
Referee: Peter Bankes
Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Colback, Shelvey, Gouffran (Atsu 89), Diame, Gayle (Mitrovic 33)
Elliot, Hanley, Gamez, Perez, Lazaar
Crowd: 50,024 (Villa 1,707)
(To read the Match Ratings go HERE)
(To read instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the match go HERE)
(To read what Steve Bruce had to say go HERE)