Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Newcastle United 2 Cheltenham Town 0

Aleksander Mitrovic is forced off last night
Aleksander Mitrovic is forced off last night

The thing is, it wasn’t even a dirty game.

Yet Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dwight Gayle and Rolando Aarons were forced off.

And Ayoze Perez netted both of Newcastle United’s goals with a bandage wrapped around his head.

It was a bizarre evening at a balmy St James’s Park.

The club’s 2-0 EFL Cup win over Cheltenham Town last night was as comfortable than the scoreline suggested, though Newcastle took time to find their stride.

By then, Aarons had hobbled off the pitch with a foot injury and a groggy Mitrovic had been forced off with concussion and a cut above his eye.

Gayle replaced Mitrovic, but the club’s leading Championship scorer was himself taken off by a concerned Rafa Benitez with a head injury after the break.

The quartet will now be assessed ahead of Saturday’s home league game against Chris Hughton’s Brighton and Hove Albion.

Once thing is for certain, Benitez is off the Johnson family’s Christmas list.

Three days after Newcastle had beaten Lee Johnson’s Bristol City, they took to the field against Cheltenham, managed by his father Gary.

After the game, Johnson Snr joked: “He (Lee) told me if we keep it down to five, we’ll have done well.”

DeAndre Yedlin, on the brink of a £5million move to Newcastle from Tottenham Hotspur, was in the stands to watch the game.

Former Sunderland loanee Yedlin had arrived on Tyneside a few hours earlier.

Daryl Janmaat, however, was not at St James’s Park, having said his goodbyes earlier in the day.

Jamie Sterry, 20, was handed his full debut at right-back in the absence of London-bound Janmaat, wanted by West Ham United and Watford, while Jesus Gamez was handed his debut at left-back.

There was also a first start of the season for goalkeeper Karl Darlow, who took his late-season chance last term with both hands.

Benitez opted to start the Championship campaign with summer signing Matz Sels between the posts.

Darlow made a confident start to the tie. The 25-year-old came out to punch a cross clear and saved a follow-up effort from Harry Pell.

United struggled to create clearcut chances of their own, and they had a let-off in the 20th minute when Danny Wright, unmarked, fluffed an attempted volley.

Benitez was forced into an early change when Aarons pulled up in the 24th minute with problem with his foot. The winger was replaced by Yoan Gouffran, who had played in the wins over City and Reading.

A devastated Aarons was wheeled around the perimeter of the pitch on a stretcher, and his face told its own story.

Mitrovic was able to return to the fray after taking a blow to his head in Newcastle’s penalty box.

United, however, lacked fluidity, and the struggled to make an impression in the final third of the pitch against a spirited Cheltenham team happy to play on the counter-attack, and things got worse before the break.

A dizzy Mitrovic, nursing a cut above his eye, was forced off in the 38th minute from the earlier challenge.

Benitez sent on Gayle, who had taken his goal tally for the season to four with the club’s winner over at Ashton Gate.

Perez, however, got the breakthrough with a curling shot seconds after returning to the field with a bandage on his head.

The 23-year-old made it 2-0 after the break with a simple tap-in after Gayle – who was free on goal – unselfishly laid the ball off to him.

Perez had to be patched up again soon afterwards as the hour-mark approached, but Gayle, by now wearing a bandage himself after suffering a head injury, was forced off in the 58th minute and replaced by Vurnon Anita, a Championship ever-present.

Cheltenham hacked the ball away before Gouffran could add a third for after good work from Mohamed Diame in the 63rd minute.

United looked to be in complete control, and Anita headed wide from a Gamez cross.

Chances came and went for Shelvey and Perez, but the game had long been won thanks to two clinical finishes from the latter.

But the victory, unfortunately, came at a cost.