By Danny Wright

6th Mar, 2017 | 8:20am

Rafa Benitez delivers verdict on fitness of Newcastle 26-year-old, fans will be hopeful

By Danny Wright

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez says that Dwight Gayle still isn’t back to full fitness but is hopeful that his goalscoring appearance on Saturday can give him extra motivation.

The 26-year-old has only featured in three games since picking up a hamstring injury in mid-January.

Gayle came off the bench against Norwich in February as his return looked complete, however he lasted just 33 minutes before he limped off the pitch a week later against Aston Villa.

After missing the Bristol City and Brighton games, Gayle was back in action when he came off the bench against Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium.

He proceeded to score a stoppage time goal to seal a 3-1 victory for the Magpies.

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

The late strike was Gayle’s 21st league goal of the campaign, but unfortunately he was overtaken by Leeds striker Chris Wood at the top of goalscoring charts as he struck two past Birmingham on Friday.

“We hope this little run and goal will give him the confidence with his injury, because he was training some days and then not others because he required treatment,” said Benitez, as quoted by the Shields Gazette.

“He will need time, but he will have more confidence now, and hopefully he will be fine until the end of the season.”

Gayle’s fitness remains vital to Newcastle’s title ambitions.

The Magpies are currently on an unbeaten run of 10 games in the league and find themselves five points clear at the pinnacle of the Championship after title rivals Brighton suffered with back-to-back losses.

The former Crystal Palace striker will now be hoping to regain full fitness and return to the starting line-up when the Tynesiders face a tough trip to Reading on Tuesday night.

In other Newcastle news, the club reportedly have a deal in place to sign a Premier League defender should they get promoted.

We’ve launched a <<BREAKING NEWS FEED>> exclusively for your club. ‘Like Us’ on Facebook by clicking here if you want 24/7 updates on all Newcastle breaking news.