Barnsley 0-2 Newcastle analysis: Rafa Benitez’s Magpies will take some stopping now

Barnsley 0-2 Newcastle analysis: Rafa Benitez's Magpies will take some stopping now
If points were awarded for pretty football alone, Newcastle United would have collected just three on the road all season – and that would have been for their brilliant performance at Loftus Road. But so often away from home, points are earned by sheer hard work, discipline and organisation. Under Rafa Benitez, the Magpies have been transformed from a side who were toothless away from Tyneside to a team who just keep grinding out positive results on the road. The three points they took back from Oakwell took their tally to 16 away from home for the campaign so far – and also saw they climb to the very summit of the Championship table. Dwight Gayle’s brace – which took his tally to the campaign to 11 – have allowed the Magpies to claim top spot for the first time so far this season. And, though Barnsley frustrated United for the first 45 minutes, they simply could not handle the Championship’s top scorer in the second half. In terms of the starting line-up for the evening, there was a return to the side for Matt Ritchie – who sat out the weekend victory over Brentford through illness – while Isaac Hayden slotted into midfield in place of Jack Colback. Mo Diame was also back in the XI for an away match, replacing Ayoze Perez due to the fact Benitez believes that the Senegal midfielder brings “balance” to the Newcastle side. Chancel Mbemba was not even named on the bench following his leg injury which also ruled him out of the weekend’s win. Unlike the stroll at St James’ Park which Newcastle enjoyed against Brentford on Saturday, Barnsley ensured this game started with great intensity. The home side harried the Magpies, not allowing the likes of Jonjo Shelvey or Hayden any time on the ball. Gayle received a kick on the edge of the area inside 10 minutes too, which left him running around gingerly, as Newcastle tried to find a way to break down their Yorkshire opponents. The first clear opportunity actually came for the Tykes as well, when Conor Hourihane fired a shot from the edge of the area just past the near post. It was a frustrating first 20 minutes for the Magpies on the whole, with Barnsley set-up to stifle United. In fact, when Newcastle’s first clear-cut opportunity did come, it was most certainly unorthodox. Ritchie broke down the right, fizzed in a cross which Gayle met at the back post after angling his foot over his body to produce a scorpion kick – which cleared the top of the bar. As the game reached the half-hour point, the home side really started to gather confidence too.
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Hourinhane’s 20-yard free-kick crashed off the Newcastle wall before James Bree fizzed a long-range effort just past the near post. The Magpies’ first shot on target finally arrived in the 39th minute when Gayle curled a 30-yard free-kick at goal, but it was easily collected by Adam Davies. Almost instantly at the other end, Sam Winnall then forced Karl Darlow into a save with a low free-kick. Barnsley’s gameplan to frustrate Newcastle played out perfectly during the first 45 minutes. But, less than four minutes after the interval, their hard work was undone by a set-piece. Ritchie floated a corner in, Ciaran Clark was pushed in the back and appealed for a penalty as he jumped for the ball, which ricocheted to Gayle at the back post. The forward won a foot-race with Tykes stopper Davies and smashed the ball into the roof of the net to send the 6,000 travelling Newcastle fans into a frenzy. Impressively, the Magpies have netted 11 set-pieces so far this season and the…

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