RAFAEL BENITEZ admits he was “worried” about Newcastle United’s prospects when the transfer window closed at the end of August – and the Magpies manager could find himself having to deal with another major problem after Jamaal Lascelles left St James’ Park on Saturday night on crutches.

Lascelles damaged his ankle in the first half of Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth, and while he continued for the opening ten minutes of the second half after a lengthy bout of treatment, he was eventually forced to hobble off.

He left the stadium with a protective boot encasing his ankle and lower leg, and Newcastle’s medical staff will assess the full extent of the damage later today once the swelling has subsided. The international schedule means the Magpies do not have a game for the next two weeks, but once the domestic action resumes, their next fixture takes them to Manchester United.

They will head to Old Trafford in the bottom half of the table after Steve Cook’s stoppage-time header condemned them to a second 1-0 defeat in the space of five days.

They have won just one of their last six matches, but having warned against the dangers of getting carried away when his side briefly forced their way into a top-four position in September, Benitez always feared there would be difficult spells such as this.

The Spaniard could not hide his frustration when Mike Ashley and Lee Charnely failed to strengthen in the final days of the summer transfer window, and Benitez admits he was fearful of his squad’s ability to cope with the demands of the Premier League programme.

“I was worried from the first of September,” said the Newcastle boss. “What I did is to work harder, and that is what I will do now. We are where we are. I said it before, and now is more proof that we have to keep working hard and keep compact together, or we will have problems in these kind of games.

“When you have experience, you know things will be like this. It’s as simple as that. When things are going well, you want the fans to enjoy it, but that’s it. The reality is you have to keep working and be sure, if something is wrong, that you find solutions.”

Whereas Newcastle were somewhat unfortunate to lose Saturday’s game, having carved out a succession of chances as they dominated much of the first half, Benitez became an increasingly unhappy figure as his pleas went unheeded on the touchline.

The Spaniard spent much of the game barking out instructions from the technical area, and appeared to be especially unhappy with Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden’s failure to establish control of the central-midfield area.

His switch to a 4-4-2 formation helped Newcastle push more players into the final third, but it also made them susceptible to Bournemouth’s counter-attacks, and there is every chance a more defensive game plan will be adopted when they head to Old Trafford in a fortnight’s time.

It will be interesting to see how Benitez sets up his side when they return to Gallowgate for their next home game against Watford on November 25, but there were clearly aspects of Saturday’s game that left him far from impressed.

“I wasn’t very happy with some of the things I was watching,” admitted Benitez. “Hopefully, in the future, we will not make the same mistakes again.

“We knew it would be a long season and we would have good results and bad results, and we will stay calm and try to do the right things. My main priority is the team, so we have to look at the things we did wrong, especially in the second half, and we have to correct that.”

“I said some things (in the dressing room after the game) because you have to say what you think, but my main priority is to make sure the players understand what we have to do in the future. The players are obviously not very happy either, but that’s very common when you lose a game.”

One of the few positives at the weekend was the return of Dwight Gayle, with the striker producing a committed display as he made his first Premier League start since the middle of August.

He was unfortunate to have a first-half effort disallowed for offside when he looked to be level with the final Bournemouth defender as Matt Ritchie drilled in a shot that hit the post to set up a rebound, and must have a good chance of remaining in the side ahead of the out-of-form Joselu if Benitez reverts to playing with one striker up front in Newcastle’s next outing.

“Competition is good, and we said to him (Gayle) that if he trains well, he will get chances,” said the Magpies boss. “They have to show it on the pitch.

“We will train now, we will have some sessions this week and wait for the players to come back from international duty. It’s still the same, we are improving but we need this time to improve some more.”

Bournemouth’s victory hauled them out of the bottom three, and lifted much of the pressure that had been building on Eddie Howe prior to last month’s away win at Stoke City.

The Cherries boss had been anticipating a tough test, and was delighted to see his side withstand Newcastle’s early pressure before becoming the game’s dominant force in the second half.

“Newcastle are a tough team to play against,” said Howe. “I watched a lot of them in the build-up to the game. They have some key players that can hurt you like (Matt) Ritchie and (Jonjo) Shelvey.

“I thought Gayle was a handful, and (Christian) Atsu did very well. They have players that can win them games and points. They are tough defensively, they are a resolute side. We knew it was going to be a tight game, maybe one goal deciding it.”