Concussion concerns for Benitez over strikers after Mags sink Cheltenham

Rafa Benitez is hopeful that Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic will be fit to face Brighton in the Championship on Saturday night.

Wednesday, 24th August 2016, 6:45 am
Newcastle defender Jamaal Lascelles goes to ground to try to stop Cheltenham last night. Picture by Frank Reid

The Newcastle United strikers were both forced off with concussion in last night’s 2-0 EFL Cup second round win against Cheltenham Town.

And Rolando Aarons suffered a foot injury to add to Benitez’s corncerns.

Ayoze Perez bagged both goals with a bandage around his head after suffering a cut in a clash of heads shortly before opening the scoring.

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Newcastle manager Benitez, however, is confident that Mitrovic and Gayle will be passed fit to take on the Seagulls at St James’s Park.

“I’m really pleased, because we went through, but disappointed because we have three injuries ... two concussions that I don’t think will be a problem,” said Benitez. “I was talking with them (Mitrovic and Gayle) at the end of the game and they were fine.

“But Rolando has a problem with his foot, so we have to wait and see what the doctor says. That is the most serious one.

“In the end, we won, and hopefully they will be fine. That is the only positive. I’m really upset with the injury of Rolando. We have to wait to see what the doctor says.”

Benitez was pleased with the match-winning performance from Perez, who was recalled to the starting XI.

“It’s important for him and the team,” said Benitez.

“When you have different players scoring goals, it’s good for the team and the manager. It’s a problem for me, but I like these kind of problems.”

Benitez – who made eight changes for the tie – also handed defender Jesus Gamez his debut. “It was important for him and also the other players that were not playing,” he said.

“When you change the team and win, the squad is stronger. If you lose, you have concerns about the level of the players. I’m pleased because Gamez did well.”

Newcastle might have fallen behind had Cheltenham striker Danny Wright displayed more composure in the 20th minute, but he shanked his first-time effort.

Perez opened the scoring right on half-time. From a position close to the left-hand corner of the box, the Spaniard swept a first-time strike into the bottom right-hand corner of the League Two visitors’ net.

Two minutes into the second half, Perez effectively putting the game beyond doubt. Easah Suliman played Cheltenham into trouble with a dreadful back-pass which was intercepted by Gayle, who unselfishly squared the ball for Perez to tap home.

Perez should have completed his hat-trick late on, but he blazed over after Jonjo Shelvey had played him in.

Cheltenham boss Gary Johnson said: “We felt hard done to (when Perez was allowed to come back onto the field close to the penalty area seconds before the opening goal), but I was proud of the boys. I was pleased with our overall performance.”

Newcastle: Darlow, Sterry, Lascelles, Hanley, Gamez, Aarons (Gouffran 24), Shelvey, Colback, Perez, Diame, Mitrovic (Gayle 38), Gayle (Anita 59). Subs not used: Dummett, Hayden, Mbemba, Sels. Goals: Perez 45, 47.

Cheltenham: Griffiths, Parslow, O’Shaughnessy, Suliman (Smith 68), Hall, James Rowe, Pell, Dayton (Arthur 68), Cranston, Waters, Wright (Morgan-Smith 77). Subs not used: Jennings, Kitscha, Whitehead. Booked: James Rowe.

Att: 21,972. Ref: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).