Newcastle travelled to Barnsley tonight with a chance to consolidate their 2nd place in the Championship or move top if Norwich were to slip up at Fulham.
There would be a recall for well again Ritchie in place of Atsu, whilst Diame and Hayden would also getting a starting birth in place of Colback and an out of form Perez from last weekends 3-1 win over Brentford.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Dummett, Clark, Lascelles, Anita, Gouffran, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie (Atsu, 83), Diame (Colback, 92), Gayle
The Magpies went into the game looking for their 4th straight win in the league and unbeaten away from home since the opening day of the season to Fulham.
Newcastle would set out as usual to be compact, not allowing their opponents time and space in their third whilst breaking with intent and purpose. And with Ritchie back in the starting line up much of our early best work would come from the right flank.
To be fair to the hosts there was little sign in the first half an hour that would allow a neutral to distinguish which team was currently sitting in second, although they themselves would produce little of any real quality in from of the Newcastle goal.
The best chance of the opening spell would be created by Ritchie down the right when his whipped cross would be met by a stretching Gayle would could only direct the ball over the top of the bar.
An early succession of dangerous free kicks for Newcastle would also provide an opportunity or two to test Davies in the Barnsley goal but without managing to break the deadlock.
And a rather frantic first half from both sides would come to an end in stalemate with neither side managing to find enough quality to get their noses in front.
Newcastle would fly out of the traps in the second half however. Whatever was said at the break certainly did the trick as following a second corner in the space of 3 minutes after the break the a scramble in the box would see the ball break to Gayle to dink one home at the far post. 1-0 Newcastle. That’s Gayle’s 10th this season after just 12 games (one from the bench).
Far from allowing the Magpies to settle following the breakthrough the game had now sparked into life.
Barnsley stirred and would push on at every opportunity, whilst at the other end Diame would go close with a chip over the keeper only to see his attempt go wide.
On 68 minutes what would turn out to be the killer blow. This time it was courtesy of a wonderful ball over the back four from Ritchie allowing Gayle to race clear and with the keeping charging out our number 9 would slide to produce a great finish for his second of the game and 11th of the season.
In the division you need a striker to get you 20-25 goals if you want to get promoted. Our lad now has 11 with only a quarter of the season gone, and 7 in his last 4 games. An amazing run, especially when you think of that missed penalty at the start of the season. Just how significant him putting that rebound in could be!
For us this was a classic case of two evenly matched sides in terms of effort but where one had just that little more quality at both ends. Solid at the back and always with a chance of pinching a goal at the right end is a nice mix to have for Newcastle, and one they will need plenty more of this season.
For now its another 3 points in the bag and with Norwich dropping points against Fulham, drawing 2-2 after being 2-0 up, and with Huddersfield not playing until tomorrow, top we go!
Keep it going lads!