Newcastle travelled to Brentford today trying to sure that they didn’t lose two games away from home on the bounce for the first time since April having lost last time out against Blackburn (remarkably).
With several players now off on International duty playing in the AFCON tournament there would be a much changed squad named for the Mags. And with Mitrovic out recovering from his gashed knee there would even be a place on the bench for Sammy Ameobi and Jamie Sterry with Murphy acting as back up for top scorer Gayle.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Colback, Hayden (Anita, 62 [Hanley, 72]), Ritchie, Perez, Gouffran, Gayle (Murphy, 28)
And as early as the second minute the visitors could have been ahead. A good ball forward form Yedlin was seized upon by Dwight Gayle only to see his well stuck effort deflected narrowly wide. Lascelles would head over form the resulting corner with Newcastle making a solid start to the game.
United wouldn’t have to wait too long for the breakthrough however with a goal, of course, coming from our and the leagues leading scorer Gayle. And the goal was all his own work, picking up the ball and driving into the box before firing home past Bentley from a tight angel.
In doing so Gayle became the first player to reach 20 goals in a season since a certain Alan Shearer bagged 20 in the Premier League in 2003/04.
On the half hour mark however some real worrying signs with the sight of our nr 9 having to leave the field to be replaced by Murphy. Whilst Gayle was able to walk off the pitch the worry will be that the injury looks like muscle or ligament damage at first glance, give he sat down with no one anywhere near him. If so that could be our star man out for some time. Let’s hope it’s just a tweak.
Almost immediately after the substitution Newcastle could have doubled their lead when the Brentford keeper saved smartly from Perez who would have a decent first half in place of the absent Diame.
Brentford, to their credit however, would always look a threat in the first half, especially in the air. One to watch in the second period.
In the second half there would be more of the same with Newcastle probing to find a way through and Brentford always looking to hit on the break or put a big ball into the box when possible.
And with just 7 minutes of the second half gone the game would be all square. A cross into the box would not be cleared by Darlow, who’s punch would not be get the ball to safety, would be put back into the box with United’s defenders doing not much more than watching Vibe stab home from close range.
Moments later Hayden would have a chance to restore Newcastle’s lead but his effort would curl wide of the Brentford keepers goal.
With Gayle now off the pitch the big question would be where would the Magpies find another goal from.
More bad news then midway through he second half as Hayden would be next to go down, again with what looked more like a muscle pull than a contract injury and was replaced by Anita. Worrying times.
With a quarter of a hour left Vibe almost got a second for Brentford. Outstripping Lascelles, who was poor all game, the Brentford striker finished past Darlow but his strike would hit the post and roll along the Newcastle goal line before being hacked away. With no goal line technology only a lack of the assistant referee’s flag would save us with no-one sure whether the ball had actually crossed the line.
And………. Anita would then be carried off on what would be a very costly afternoon for the Magpies.
With Hanley now on the pick and plenty of time left to play it was now feeling like the Alamo.
Newcastle now having a bit of a height advantage would look to use this to their advantage with a string of free-kicks and corners, whilst Vibe would look at continual threat on the break.
It looked like one more goal would settle it and with Brentford now looking far the more dangerous it did look like a case of whether or not Newcastle could hold on.
Colback wins the ball in midfield.
Colback feeds Perez.
Perez with a delicious cross.
A cracking goal from Murphy to score his second goal in a week for the Mags with the keeper stranded in no mans land.
A clear penalty for Brentford not given and a chance for Perez to break clear and finish before the end were both huge moments before the end of the game.
But with 9 minutes of injury time Newcastle would hang on to an undeserved 3 points. Perhaps it’s all swings and roundabouts after last weeks Blackburn loss. Certainly a win that we’ll take and one that puts us back top with Brighton losing 2-0 at Preston today.
One piece of good news is that Jonjo Shelvey has now served all of his ban. With so many players missing on international duty or injured there will be a question whether he will be risked in the Birmingham cup replay on Wednesday or if he will be saved for Rotherham.
Whichever it is, and with the promise of some action in the transfer market Rafa will be glad of any reinforcements, particularly of his quality.