Rafa Benitez reacts after misfiring Aleksandar Mitrovic draws another blank up front for Newcastle

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Aleksandar Mitrovic

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Rafa Benitez has backed Aleksandar Mitrovic after the misfiring striker drew another blank for Newcastle United.

Mitrovic missed a series of chances in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Bristol City.

He worked hard, and if he scores goals, he would be happier and with more confidence.

And Benitez must choose between Mitrovic and Daryl Murphy for tomorrow night’s game against Championship leaders Brighton and Hove Albion if Dwight Gayle fails to prove his fitness in time to play at the Amex Stadium.

Mitrovic, under pressure from Murphy, has scored just one goal for second-placed Newcastle since late October.

But Benitez does NOT feel that the 22-year-old is suffering from a crisis of confidence in front of goal.

Asked if he was lacking confidence, Benitez said: “No, I don’t think so.

“I was really pleased for him the other day (against Aston Villa). He worked hard, and if he scores goals, he would be happier and with more confidence.”

Gayle, meanwhile, worked over the weekend on his fitness.

The 20-goal striker limped out of United’s win over Aston Villa a week ago after feeling his hamstring, but, crucially, he hadn’t suffered a recurrence of the problem that sidelined him for almost a month.

And Benitez will make a late decision on the involvement of Gayle.

“He has been training and and we will see,” said Benitez, whose side trail Brighton by a point. “It’s a question of how he feels. He was fine (on Saturday).”

Meanwhile, Benitez has backed goalkeeper Karl Darlow in the wake of the mix-up with Paul Dummett which led to City’s second goal.

Darlow fumbled a back header from Dummett, and David Cotterill was able to put the visitors 2-0 up midway through the first half.

United claimed a point thanks to an own goal from Korey Smith and an 82nd-minute header from Ciaran Clark.

The mistake from Darlow, under pressure from fit-again Rob Elliot, followed a miskick against Norwich City earlier this month.

Benitez said: “He made a great save afterwards. The keeper has to deal with difficult balls, and in this case we made a mistake and it’s something we have to improve.

“It’s not very difficult to analyse this situation and correct it.”