Burton Albion 1 Newcastle United 2: Benitez's side will be Christmas No 1

Dwight Gayle, right

Dwight Gayle, right

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Newcastle United will be Christmas No 1 in the Championship.

The club stretched its lead at the top of the division to four points with a third successive win this afternoon.

Rafa Benitez's side beat Burton Albion 2-1 at the Pirelli Stadium thanks to goals from Dwight Gayle and Mohamed Diame.

The pair struck in the first half in front of Newcastle's 1,600-strong travelling support at the compact stadium, where Newcastle had to scrap and fight for everything.

READ MORE: Rafa Benitez responds to speculation over Aleksandar Mitrovic’s future at Newcastle

Second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion take on Birmingham City at St Andrew's this evening.

United manager Benitez made two changes from the team which beat Wigan Athletic 2-0 in midweek.

Christian Atsu and DeAndre replaced Yoan Gouffran and Vurnon Anita in Benitez's starting XI at the Pirelli Stadium.

And Atsu – who had scored Newcastle's second goal at the DW Stadium – had the club's first chance.

The winger ran on to a ball over the top from Jonjo Shelvey, but Burton goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin was able to get off his line and gather the ball at the feet of Atsu.

United's breakthrough came in the 15th when Shelvey set away Ritchie down the left. Ritchie beat his man and crossed for Gayle, who flicked the ball past McLaughlin at the near post.

The lead didn't last. Five minutes later, Burton were level.

John Brayford broke up the right for Burton and Newcastle couldn't stop his cross reaching an unmarked Dyer, who beat Karl Darlow.

United withstood a spell of intense pressure before retaking the lead.

Diame – who had scored a superb goal against Wigan – rolled the last man and beat McLaughlin with a neat finish to take his goal tally for the season to five.

Defender Paul Dummett had made an important clearance at the other end of the pitch two minutes earlier.

Burton continued to press their visitors after the interval, though Ritchie had a shot blocked in a rare attack in the 61st minute.

Gayle, always playing on the last man, shot wide later in the half.

United surved an edgy final period to record a third league win in the space of eight days.

Newcastle return to action on Boxing Day when they entertain Sheffield Wednesday at St James's Park.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Shelvey, Hayden; Ritchie, Diame, Atsu; Gayle. Subs not used: Sels, Anita, Lazaar, Mbemba, Gouffran, Perez, Mitrovic.

BURTON ALBION: McLaughlin, Brayford, Mousinho, McFadzean, O'Grady, Akins (Ward, 78), Dyer, McCrory, Naylor, Palmer (Miller, 89), Irvine. Subs: not used: Bywater, Flanagan, Williamson, Choudhury, Harness.

Goals: Gayle 15, Dyer 20, Diame 34

Bookings: Naylor 19, Irvine 45, Hayden 56

Referee: Lee Probert (Gloucestershire)

Attendance: 6,665

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