Is Ciaran Clark the biggest miss for Newcastle?

Dwight Gayle scores against Leeds earlier this season
Dwight Gayle scores against Leeds earlier this season

They’ve done it before and they can do it again.

Newcastle United can get by without Dwight Gayle.

But are they the same team without him?

Without Gayle’s 22 goals, United would be nowhere near the Championship summit.

The last last Newcastle faced Leeds United, Gayle was flying.

So too was the team itself.

The 2-1 defeat to Wednesday underlined just how much United are missing defender Ciaran Clark. The sooner Clark’s back, the better.

Rafa Benitez’s side recorded a ninth successive win at Elland Road, where Gayle netted twice in a 2-0 win.

United were dominant on that November afternoon. They were strong with and without the ball.

When they broke forward, they did so with pace and purpose.

Jonjo Shelvey kept things simple in midfield, and Gayle underlined how dangerous he can be in and around the box with predatory strikes.

At the back, Newcastle were solid.

United were everything they weren’t against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on Saturday, where Gayle limped off the pitch with 29 minutes gone.

Leeds visit St James’s Park on Good Friday.

Newcastle have maintained their progress towards the Premier League, but Brighton and Hove Albion lead the division.

Since the turn of the year, United have had as many downs as ups.

Benitez has rarely had the luxury of fielding Gayle and Shelvey in the same team. And Matt Ritchie, overlooked in the weekend’s EFL awards, has ran himself into the ground.

But they’ve had enough about them to win games.

They beat Brighton and third-placed Huddersfield Town, still 10 points behind them, during a momentous week on the road.

The back-to-back home wins over Wigan Athletic and Burton Albion weren’t convincing, but they got six important points.

At this stage of the season, it’s about points, not plaudits.

Newcastle will get by without Gayle. They have Daryl Murphy and Aleksandar Mitrovic waiting to deputise.

But the 2-1 defeat to Wednesday underlined just how much United are missing defender Ciaran Clark.

The sooner Clark’s back, the better.