Rafa Benitez has delivered some good and bad news on the fitness front in the build up to tomorrow’s game with Everton at St James’ Park, suggesting that Jamaal Lascelles should be read to return to the NUFC XI – but admitting that Paul Dummett’s return has been postponed due to a bout of unexpected illness.
Whilst our lack of goal threat has been criticised on several occasions this season, it’s been our defensive frailty that has cost us more than anything in recent weeks, making the return of Lascelles and Dummett all the more important.
Here’s what Rafa had to say about the pair’s fitness levels ahead of tomorrow’s game, starting with Lascelles:
“He (Lascelles) was nearly there (at the weekend),”
“He was on the bench and nearly there in terms of his fitness. Now he is a little bit better so we will decide.
“When something is wrong, it is always good to have players with personality and character although I haven’t decided on the team yet.”
Sounds to me like he’s ready to return, having improved even further since his return to the squad for Leicester on Saturday.
Then to Dummett, who is clearly getting closer to a return, however a lack of match fitness and a illness looks set to see him miss out once again:
“He is getting better but he is still a little bit short,”
“He played 60 minutes with the Under-23s the other day, but he is probably still a little short.
“We are missing Dummett. Some people were criticising Dummett last year, but now the same people are saying we need him.
“We have lost the only left-back we have. We have had three or four players injured at the same time. Hopefully if everyone is available we can be as solid as we were at the beginning of the season.”
Very true from Rafa and the end there too. He’s often been slated, but there’s little doubt that he’d help shore up our leaky defence at present. Unfortunately, he’ll miss out once again though due to match fitness and illness.
Rafa says Paul Dummett has been unwell and probably won't be available for the match against Everton #NUFC
— Matthew Raisbeck (@raisbeck10) December 12, 2017
It would’ve been nice to have them both back, but hopefully the skippers expected return will give us the much needed boost we need – especially at the back after shipping three once against at home on Saturday!