Two defeats out of two: Benitez ready to keep tinkering to help Magpies find spark

Jack Payne drives home Huddersfield's winner at Newcastle
Jack Payne drives home Huddersfield's winner at Newcastle
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Rafa Benitez has vowed to make more changes in an attempt to find a winning formula at Newcastle United.

Benitez’s side were beaten 2-1 by Huddersfield Town at a sold-out St James’s Park on Saturday, making it two defeats out of two in the Championship.

Benitez – who made four changes at the weekend – is mulling over his options for Wednesday night’s home game against Reading.

“The players have to realise that we have to compete,” said Benitez.

“We have a big squad and we have to compete and be ready for what we know that is a very demanding competition, with us having two games a week.

“We train in a way that everyone knows what they have to do, so it’s a lot easier to change players.

“But against Huddersfield we were thinking about having better control on the ball, having more possession.

“We had this, but still it was not enough. So if we have to make changes, we will make changes.”

Without the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic, Benitez doesn’t have a player capable of holding the ball up and playing with his back to goal.

Benitez, for his part, is frustrated that the work being done on the training pitch isn’t being replicated in matches.

“It’s true that we didn’t have too many clear chances,” said Benitez.

“I was concerned about that, even though we improved in the second half when we were going to wide areas and we were trying to do something, but still it was not enough.

“We have to improve in defence because we are making mistakes, we have to improve in the middle and move the ball quicker, and we have to improve in the final third because we were not precise.

“We didn’t have enough good movement and the right patterns to our play.

“We didn’t do what we’ve been doing in training sessions during the game.”

Striker Nahki Wells deservedly curled David Wagner’s Huddersfield in front on the stroke of half-time when he was afforded too much freedom in the Newcastle box.

But Dwight Gayle headed his first goal for Newcastle since a summer switch from Crystal Palace just after the hour, even though it came from his own saved penalty, to provide hope.

Huddersfield, who defended strongly throughout, responded by hitting the winner eight minutes from time on the break when substitute Jack Payne scored with his first touch to send the travelling supporters home happy.

Meanwhile, Benitez revealed why he left winger Matt Ritchie out of his starting XI.

Benitez said of the Scotland international, who was introduced, replacing Rolando Aarons, at half-time with Newcastle behind: “He was stiff during the week and he was not training.

“But we put him on the bench just in case we needed him.”

Newcastle: Sels, Janmaat (Armstrong 83), Mbemba, Lascelles, Dummett, Anita, Hayden, Shelvey, Aarons (Ritchie 46), Diame (Perez 75), Gayle. Subs not used: Clark, Colback, Darlow, Gamez. Booked: Gayle. Goal: Gayle 60.

Huddersfield: Ward, Smith, Hudson, Schindler, Lowe, Lolley (Payne 81), Mooy, Hogg, van La Parra (Scannell 72), Kachunga, Wells (Palmer 64). Subs not used: Coleman, Cranie, Stankovic, Hefele. Booked: Hudson, Lowe. Goals: Wells 45, Payne 82.

Att: 52,079. Ref: Oliver Langford (W Midlands).