Newcastle United finally kick started their season with a 4-1 home victory over Reading.
Dwight Gayle would star with a brace as would Ritchie who got his first competitive goal for the club with a second half penalty.
Benitez had not been afraid to make changed ahead of the clash with Lascelles the most notable casualty as the Spaniard moved those who’d underperformed recently out of the first 11.
STARTING XI: Sels, Anita, Mbemba, Clark, Dummett, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie (Aarons, 90), Perez (Lascelles, 76), Gouffran (Colback, 84), Gayle
That meant a start for Clark whilst Gouffran would also get his first start of the season.
And the changes worked.
As in previous games Newcastle started well, only this time they would make their dominance pay. The home crowd were celebrating as early as the 3rd minute when Gayle netted. Whilst both the referee and his assistant initially gave the goal the Reading players, to a man, surrounded the referee to protest at what most of the St James Park crowd had already seen, in Gayle had used his hand to score, not his head.
A brief chat between the two officials and the right outcome would prevail, with he goal chalked off and a yellow card for Gayle.
The Mags wouldn’t have to wait too long for the opener however as on 20 minutes Reading would fail to convincingly clear a corner allowing Isaac Hayden to fire home after a neat turn and shot from 12 yards out.
At this point it only looked like a case of how many Newcastle would score but, as in previous games, Rafa’s side would concede just before half time. Whether there is some kind of mental block or fear it’s impossible to tell, but for this to have happened in all three of our league games so far is a bit of a worry.
In this case it was a crazy challenge from Clark, who committed a needless foul in the box on 44 minutes with the Reading player heading away from goal. Gareth McCleary would convert from the spot.
To be fair to Reading the goal had been coming as whilst Newcastle had dominated for the opening 35 minutes the warning signs were there as the home side seemed to sit deeper and deeper to protect their slender advantage. Indeed Beerens would go as close as hitting the bar just before Reading got their penalty.
You could feel the tension at half time, but whatever was said to the players in the dressing room worked, and Newcastle came out all guns blazing in the second period.
Just 5 minutes into the second half and Ritchie would have his first of the game and of the season, again from the spot. After what we can only assume was pulling in the box at a corner the referee decided it was a penalty and Ritchie blasted into the bottom left corner, beating Al Habsi despite the Reading keeper going the right way. Interesting of course that Ritchie took this one given Gayle’s previous missed spot kick in the last game.
In total control now Newcastle would go further ahead with a fantastic 30 yard free kick from Dwight Gayle on 69 minutes to make it 3-1, only then to tap in from close range on 89 minutes to seal with win with his second of the game and third of the season.
Newcastle off and running then with their first points of the season, moving up the table to 17th with all the midweek fixtures now complete.
Rafa and his men will certainly be looking for more of the same this weekend at Bristol City as hopefully this win will kick start a run of points that will move Newcastle to the right end of the table.