FORMER Newcastle United coach Mark Lawrenson thinks Rafael Benitez’s team will still struggle to score goals in the relegation run-in despite landing Algerian striker Islam Slimani.

Benitez spent last month trying to bolster his attacking ranks and ended up securing the services of Slimani on loan for the rest of the season from Leicester City.

The 29-year-old front-man has effectively replaced Aleksandar Mitrovic, who moved to Fulham, and is yet to figure in either of the two games they have played because of a thigh problem.

Slimani is expected to make his debut at Bournemouth on February 24 and Newcastle will be looking for him to chip in with more goals than Mitrovic (1), Dwight Gayle (3) and Joselu (4) have in the league this season.

Slimani has found it hard to nail down a place in the Leicester team over the last 18 months and the £29m signing from Sporting Lisbon is looking to make more of an impact at St James’ Park – knowing four of his five goals this season were in the EFL Cup.

Lawrenson, a pundit for the BBC, told The Northern Echo: “I really don’t see goals in Newcastle, although against Crystal Palace they did commit forward however, Palace had all sorts of chances and really could and should have won that game.

“I think they’re scrappy and I look at the three promoted, I know you mentioned Newcastle, but I think you’ve got to lump in Huddersfield, they don’t have many goals in them, but Brighton, obviously they signed Leonardo Ulloa and the boy from PSV, but it looks like Brighton are trying to address the problem.

“For the promoted teams, it’s always about getting enough goals to win games, not worrying about getting beat by Man City and Man United by three or four, it’s really about the results against the teams who are in the same position.

“But it’s about goals; goals make the difference in staying in the division and getting relegated and I just look at Newcastle and kind of go, 'am I convinced Slimani will get loads of goals for Newcastle?' No I’m not convinced at all.”

Slimani is desperate to prove his worth on Tyneside and earn a permanent switch.

Benitez will monitor how he does although the Newcastle boss is also known to retain an interest in Feyenoord striker Nicolai Jorgensen. It is hoped Slimani will enjoy the sort of immediate impact that Kenedy and Martin Dubravka – the two other January loan arrivals – have enjoyed.

Asked if Benitez would be happy with Newcastle’s January business, Lawrenson, working for, said: “Rafa wouldn’t be happy if he had Suarez, Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar and Bale as his front five! That’s just Rafa’s way.

“I remember Steven Gerrard saying something to me a few years ago when Rafa was in charge of Liverpool and Stevie G would’ve been in the top three players playing in the Premier League at that time.

“It was during the international week and Liverpool had just played at Anfield and won and Rafa said to Steven, ‘Just nip down to my office will you I need to have two minutes with you’, after the game Steven went down, Rafa gave him a DVD and said ‘Steven just look at that whilst you’re away.’

“Steven said ‘Yeah OK’. Do you know what it was? It was all of the mistakes he had made in the game. That’s Rafa. He didn’t show him all the wonder goals and all the times he had pulled them up by the boot laces and won games, it was ‘know your mistakes’. That’s Rafa. I bet he’s up all night making them for the Newcastle players this season!”

Since Lawrenson spoke, Newcastle gave their fight for survival a real lift by defeating Manchester United last Sunday. Such a victory was a reminder of the job Benitez is doing with a limited squad and a lack of transfer funds – mainly because of Mike Ashley’s attempts to sell the club, which saw Amanda Staveley’s bids fail.

Lawrenson said: “I think you have to remember that Mike Ashley is just a businessman. He’s not a Newcastle fan, I think he’s a Tottenham fan in all honesty and even then I’m not quite sure if he is a Tottenham fan, I think he probably just likes Tottenham but I don’t think he’s one that would go every week.

“He wants to sell the business, I don’t think he needs to sell the business, I know he’s a very good businessman and I would just suggest that the so-called takeover wasn’t offering him as much money as he thought it was worth and the problem with that is that he’s got to get it absolutely right.

“Obviously we know they got relegated, they spent a year in the Championship and it’s horrible in that league. If you think about it, take 25 or 30 per cent of what you think the club’s worth because they’re playing in the Championship.

“He’ll just stick to his guns, but he’s not really that interested. He bought the club, he spent money on the club. Obviously the fans think he should spend even more but hey, it’s his money and he makes those decisions and that’s the thing, if one man owns your football club, like him or loathe him, he makes all the decisions.”

If Newcastle can stay in the top-flight Ashley will be faced with whether or not to invest in the squad in the summer. Jorgensen will be a target again, and Feyenoord’s general manager Jan de Jong has explained why he turned the bids from Tyneside down.

"We wanted to keep as strong a team as possible and Jorgensen is part of that,” de Jong said. “We do not regret having kept him at De Kuip, otherwise we would have let him go. We did not have to sell him, so he just stays with Feyenoord."