Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle side cruised to a ninth consecutive win in all competitions against Leeds United on Sunday afternoon, creating a gap of 5 points between themselves and second-placed Brighton at the top of the Championship table.
Dwight Gayle was reportedly involved in an incident last weekend, however, the intrepid striker showed no ill-effects from the supposed altercation, as his brace gave the Magpies a deserved win and took his tally to 13 goals for the season.
Here’re five things we learned from United’s Elland Road triumph.
1. Dwight Gayle is Premier League quality
Gayle is a natural goal scorer and that was proved once again on an afternoon where Kyle Bartley and Pontus Jansson found it incredibly difficult to deal with the front man’s movement and clinical nature.
Albeit the first goal was a tap-in, however the awareness Gayle showed to anticipate a Rob Green error was impressive and demonstrated his predatory instincts.
His knack to be in the right place at the right time was evident once again for the second goal,as full back Vurnon Anita picked him out with a lovely cross which Gayle slid home.
He continues to mock Alan Pardew’s decision to sell him and will surely do a job in the Premier League should the Magpies clinch promotion this season.
2. Benitez has installed a game management which is second to none
Far too often last season under Steve McClaren Newcastle United were unable to see a game out, a fact that showed with only two away wins all season.
This season is an entirely different story, with seven away wins already delivered.
Senior players like Jack Colback and Jonjo Shelvey make Newcastle tick and are more than comfortable in seeing games out.
3. Darlow has made the number one spot his own
Expectations were high for goalkeeper Matz Sels when he arrived on Tyneside, with the Belgian boasting experience in the Champions League, numerous international caps and a goalkeeper of the year award from last season after recording 11 clean sheets in 30 league appearances for Gent.
However, the 24-year-old never looked comfortable between the sticks ,and Darlow was called upon after the Belgian made a costly mistake in the dying minutes against Aston Villa.
Since then Darlow has not put a foot wrong and the former Forest stopper produced a crucial save in the 49th minute to deny O’Kane an equaliser on Sunday afternoon.
Darlow knows the league well after his experience with Nottingham Forrest and he will be crucial in Newcastle’s promotion push this season.
4. Ciaran Clark has proved to be a shrewd piece of business by Rafa Benitez
Supporters had a right to be skeptical after the arrival of Republic of Ireland international Ciaran Clark for £5million over the summer – I say this as he was part of a shambolic Aston Villa defence which shipped in a staggering 76 goals last season – however, the 27-year-old been a revelation under the management of Rafa Benitez.
The former Aston Villa man has kept fan-favourite Chancel Mbemba out of the starting line-up in recent weeks, and rightly so. A solid partnership with Lascelles has been formed and Clark was Newcastle’s unsung hero once again today, as he has been throughout the season.
5. United have a fearless mentality
There will not be a team in the Championship wanting to play Newcastle right now. With eight straight wins in the league and nine in all competitions, they are on fire.
Benitez’s men will not fear anybody at the moment, and so they shouldn’t.
There were doubts as to whether 3 points would be taken today from a rejuvenated Leeds side under Gary Monk. However, in truth, it was comfortable for United. With players like Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gayle, and Jonjo Shelvey on display, the quality really does shine through.