Newcastle United 4 Birmingham City 0: Hat-trick hero Gayle sends club back to top
Dwight Gayle fired Newcastle United back to the top of the Championship this afternoon.
Rafa Benitez's side convincingly beat Birmingham City 4-0 at a sold-out St James's Park thanks to a Gayle hat-trick and a strike from Yoan Gouffran.
Newcastle dominated the game from start to finish thanks to the outstanding Jonjo Shelvey.
And the result, which ended a run of three successive defeats in all competitions, saw United go a point clear of Brighton and Hove Albion at the top of the division ahead of Wednesday night's away game against Wigan Athletic.
Shelvey – who had a three-game ban for his controversial dismissal against Nottingham Forest overturned ahead of the game – quickly got Newcastle going in the early stages.
The midfielder, energetic and enthusiastic, demanded the ball at every opportunity.
Mohamed Diame also caught the eye, and it was a powerful run from the midfielder which led to Gayle's opening goal in the 18th minute.
Diame broke down the right and cross for Gayle, who scored at the far post.
A hesitant Che Adams lost possession to Diame six minutes later, and a quick move saw Isaac Hayden cross for Gayle, who made it 2-0.
Gouffran netted his fifth goal of the season early in the second half.
And Gayle, denied earlier in the half by goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak, netted his second hat-trick of the season in the 77th minute after good work from Shelvey.
The strike took Gayle's goal tally for the season to 16.
Gayle, replaced by Aleksandar Mitrovic for the last, left the field to a standing ovation.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow; Anita, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Shelvey, Hayden (Lazaar, 81); Richie, Diame, Gouffran (Atsu, 70); Gayle (Mitrovic, 79). Subs not used: Sels, Yedlin, Mbemba, Tiote.
BIRMINGHAM CITY: Kuszczak; Dacres-Cogley, Morrison, Shotton, Grounds; Tesche (Keitenebld, 46), Gleeson; Stewart (Jutkiewicz, 46), Adams, Cotterill (O'Keefe, 70); Donaldson. Subs not used: Legzdins, Robinson, Solomon-Otabor, Brown.
Goals: Gayle 18, 24, 77, Gouffran 48
Bookings: Tesche 32, Ritchie 59, Hayden 75
Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire)