Bar an odd defence-splitting pass from Shelvey – (up against his former employers) – and Swansea’s Sam Clucas, the watching Gareth Southgate did not have too much high calibre stuff to get excited about. Perhaps tellingly, a key sub-plot centred on Bartley’s testing duel with Pérez, which, considering the former was on a yellow card following a tug on Gayle, left the centre-half effectively treading on eggshells.
DeAndre Yedlin pleased Benítez rather more by clearing off the line from Wilfried Bony with Darlow beaten at the death.
Arguably the Spaniard’s most pressing worry is his lack of an incisive striker. The early second-half moment when Clucas was dispossessed and Gayle shot low and, narrowly wide, seemed emblematic; a chronic shortage of ruthlessness in front of goal could get cost Benítez’s team their Premier League status.
Then there was the moment when Christian Atsu crossed low for Paul Dummett but the advancing left-back seemed to get the ball stuck beneath his feet at the wrong moment and, miscueing, sent the ball ballooning into the Leazes End.
A hyper-active Ayoze Pérez turned Kyle Bartley inside out before crossing for Gayle to head wide, Lukasz Fabianski did well to parry Pérez’s shot following Matt Ritchie’s clever ball over the top of the defence and Jonjo Shelvey lifted a free-kick just over the bar.