Newcastle United 4 Rotherham United 0: Ritchie, Murphy and Perez fire club back to top

Daryl Murphy, centre

Daryl Murphy, centre

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Newcastle United return to the top of the Championship this afternoon.

Rafa Benitez's side beat Rotherham United 4-0 at St James's Park thanks to two goals from Matt Ritchie and strikes from Daryl Murphy and Ayoze Perez.

And the result took Newcastle one point clear of Brighton and Hove Albion, who had, briefly, led the division following their victory over Sheffield Wednesday last night.

READ MORE: How a tackle from Mathieu Flamini eventually led to Isaac Hayden’s move from Arsenal to Newcastle

Ritchie took his goal tally for the season to 10, while Murphy made it three goals from three games.

The game also saw Sammy Ameobi – who came off the bench in the second half – make his first appearance for United since 2015.

Matt Ritchie

Matt Ritchie

Rotherham, backed by 3,200 fans, made lift difficult for Newcastle in the first half.

Jonjo Shelvey, man-marked by Will Vaulks, was relatively quiet, and Karl Darlow recovered from an error to make a superb save to deby Jerry Yates late in the half.

But Vaulks could only watch as Shelvey delivered an inch-perfect free-kick to DeAndre Yedlin in added time.

Yedlin delivered a first-time cross for Murphy, who turned and shot past Richard O'Donnell.

United took control of the game after the break, and Ritchie doubled their advantage with a simple finish after O'Donnell palmed a shot into his path.

Perez netted a third goal in the 59th minute after good work from Yedlin on the right.

Benitez sent on Ameobi, back from a half-season loan at Bolton Wanderers, midway through the second half.

It was Ameobi's first appearance for the club since May 2015.

And Ritchie, signed from Bournemouth last summer, completed the scoring with a 77th-minute goal to take his goal tally for the season to 10.

Jamie Sterry, back from a loan at Coventry City, replaced Yedlin for the last nine minutes.

Newcastle take on Oxford United in a fourth-round FA Cup tie at the Kassam Stadium a week today.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow; Yedlin (Sterry, 81), Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Hayden, Shelvey; Ritchie, Perez, Gouffran (Ameobi, 63); Murphy (Lazaar, 75). Subs not used: Sels, Haidara, Hanley, Barlaser.

ROTHERHAM UNITED: O'Donnell; Fisher, Wood, Belaid, Mattock; Smallwood; Forde (Kelly, 87), Vaulks, Adeyemi, Taylor (Allan, 75); Yates (Ward, 61). Subs not used: Bilboe, Wilson, Warren.

Goals: Murphy 45, Ritchie 49, 77, Perez 59

Booking: Smallwood 45

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire)

Attendance: 52,208