Newcastle United striker Dwight Gayle let Steve Bruce down after delivering an indifferent cameo performance in Sunday’s goalless draw with West Bromwich Albion.
The forward was forced to settle for a seat on the bench at The Hawthorns after Bruce chose to field Ryan Fraser beside Joelinton in the absence of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin after both were ruled out until April through injury.
Gayle was eventually given a chance to prove himself 57 minutes into the relegation six-pointer when introduced in place of Jeff Hendrick, who had returned to the starting line-up for the first time in four Premier League games.
Yet, even then, Gayle was not fielded in the front line of Newcastle’s attack, with Bruce expecting to see the London-born goalscorer operate in the false nine link-up role that Almiron has occupied of late.
Bruce chose to utilise Gayle in this way as he refused to ditch the split-striker formation that he has used since the middle of January following Graeme Jones’ arrival at St. James’ Park.
“I think it was important not to disturb the shape that we’ve been playing in the last six weeks or so,” said Bruce, via quotes by The Shields Gazette. “The players are getting used to the way we want to play, so I thought it was imperative we stuck with that.
“If we had played Andy [Carroll] and Dwight, then we’d have to change the whole set-up, and I don’t think we had time to do that.”
Whether it was through a lack of understanding his role or if he simply didn’t have the ability to succeed on the day, Gayle ultimately let Bruce down having failed to provide any substantial attacking threat during his half an hour on the field.
Gayle failed to register a single shot against West Brom and saw his creativity disappear after the hour mark, per WhoScored, when his pass teed Joe Willock up to shoot but Sam Johnstone was able to make the save at his near post.
It was the sixth time this season that Gayle has now failed to register a single shot during a Premier League fixture, having struck sole efforts against Chelsea, Leeds and Aston Villa after firing three on his campaign debut while scoring the winner at home to the Baggies in December.
The £40,000-per-week frontman rarely got on the ball over the weekend, either, with Gayle taking just 10 touches – only Isaac Hayden (7) registered fewer for the visitors in the same period.
Hendrick may have struggled to get involved in the action during his time on the field, too, yet the £8m-rated dud will not have been expected to grab the game by the scruff of its neck.
The Republic of Ireland international had been benched for the Toon’s last two games after sitting out last month’s defeat to Chelsea through suspension, after being shown a second yellow card against Southampton for a needless shirt pull on Takumi Minamino.
Hendricks’ performance that day also returned an appalling two out of 10 match rating from Chronicle Live, and came after being slammed by an array of fans for his display against Crystal Palace, a horror show at Everton and an anonymous display at Aston Villa.
So, it was hardly a surprise to see the 29-year-old fail to provide a single key pass, shot or successful tackle against West Brom, while completing fewer passes (16) than all Newcastle players but Willock (16) during his time on the field, per WhoScored.
Hendrick and Gayle now likely face a big week in training trying to convince Bruce that they deserve starting roles at home to Aston Villa on Friday, but Gayle’s performance will likely see that he needs to do even more, given the United boss’ backing of the ex-Burnley man on Sunday.