Rafa Benitez reacts after Dwight Gayle sends Newcastle to the top of the league

Newcastle United's Dwight Gayle scores his opening goal.

Newcastle United's Dwight Gayle scores his opening goal.

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Rafa Benitez hailed Dwight Gayle after the striker blasted Newcastle United to the top of the Championship.

Gayle took his goal tally for the season to 11 with both the club’s goals in last night’s 2-0 win over Barnsley.

The result took the club a point clear of Norwich City, held to a 2-2 draw by Fulham, at the top of the league.

Gayle, signed from Crystal Palace for £10million in the summer, opened the scoring early in the second half from a Matt Ritchie corner.

And the 25-year-old added another in the 68th minute after being played in by Ritchie.

“I think he is doing well,” said United manager Benitez.

“The team is doing well and he is the one that is taking the chances, so I am really pleased for him and for the team.

“We knew that he could score goals. We were impressed at the beginning, because he was working very hard in the training sessions.

“When someone has his quality in front of goal, and is also working hard, it is a good combination.

“It is not easy to have both things at the same time. I think he is enjoying himself and he is doing very well.”

Benitez had quickly identified Gayle and Ritchie, signed from Bournemouth for £12million, as transfer priorities after agreeing to stay on in the Championship in the wake of the club’s relegation.

And the two have already proved to be astute signings.

“As soon as we knew that Andros Townsend was leaving, Ritchie and Gayle were our priorities,” said Benitez.

“We tried to sign them and knew they would make us fine in these positions. We were very happy to get them, and very pleased as soon as we watched Gayle train. We knew what he (Gayle) was capable of, and he always trained very well.”

United take on Ipswich Town at St James’s Park on Saturday.