Rafa Benitez’s message to his table-topping Newcastle team

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez.

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez.

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Newcastle United climbed to the top of the table at Oakwell – but Rafa Benitez wasn’t getting carried away.

Benitez’s side beat Barnsley 2-0 last night to move above Norwich City.

Dwight Gayle scored both goals to take his tally for the season to 11.

There were jubilaint scenes at the final whistle as the club’s 5,501 travelling fans celebrated the result.

And United manager Benitez was delighted for the supporters who had made the journey to Barnsley.

“Obviously, to get to the top of the table is really good,” said Benitez.

“It’s especially nice to do it when you are playing away, then the fans are able to go back enjoying themselves. I am really pleased for them.

“Before the game, I was saying it is a long race, and it is still a very long competition. That has not changed, it is still a very long race.”

Gayle struck twice after the break, and both his goals were created by Matt Ritchie, recalled to his starting XI.

Newcastle had struggled to break Barnsley down in the first half.

And Benitez felt his team were patient in their approach to the game.

“It was a very professional performance,” said Benitez. “It was difficult, against a good team.

“We knew that they could push and press with intensity and physicality, and when they could, they played. We knew it could be like this.

“We had to work hard in the first half, and then when we scored the goal in the second half, it was more open and we had more chances.”

Benitez was also delighed with the clean sheet his team, led by Jamaal Lascelles, kept at Oakwell.

“It is always important to win, but when you do not concede, that is even more important for the confidence of the team, especially the defenders and the keeper,” said Benitez.

“ It is not just about them though, because the strikers and the wingers were working so hard, the defenders were able to do a great job.”