The last thing Newcastle United wanted at a crucial stage of the season was to see their top scorer pick up an injury.
Newcastle United may have got back to winning ways on Saturday afternoon, prevailing 2-1 in a potentially tricky trip to Griffin Park, but the sight of Dwight Gayle hobbling off in the first half will be the only memory occupying the minds of Magpies supporters right now.
After smashing home his 20th league goal of the season against Brentford, becoming the first Newcastle player since a certain Alan Shearer to hit such a landmark, the 26-year-old hobbled off to concerned murmurs from the travelling support.
After all, it is just two weeks since they take on Brighton in a season-defining top of the table clash and, as it stands, Gayle looks likely to be flanking fellow crock Aleksandar Mitrovic in the stands rather than on the Amex pitch.
Consequently, a Newcastle side looking light on creative midfielders suddenly appears to be bereft of goalscorers with Ayoze Perez’s barren run extending to ten games and Daryl Murphy, although the match-winner on Saturday, only 65 minutes into his league career for The Magpies.
Therefore, this may well have presented 19-year-old local lad Adam Armstrong with his long-awaited opportunity in the first-team had Newcastle not decided to extend his loan spell at Barnsley until the end of the season.
Armstrong may have only scored three times and started nine but his pace and intelligent movement would surely have made him an excellent alternative for Gayle in the weeks ahead, contributing a similar thrust and poachers instinct.
Instead, Benitez will be forced to stick with Murphy, a striker who, despite his impressive recent form, appears a rather clunky fit for the Spaniard’s style – at least in comparison to the teenage striker plying his trade at Oakwell right now.
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