Newcastle United 4 Reading 1: Gayle, Hayden and Ritchie star in convincing win
Newcastle United got their Championship campaign up and running at the third time of asking tonight.
Two goals from Dwight Gayle and strikes from Isaac Hayden and Matt Ritchie gave Rafa Benitez's side a 4-1 win over Reading at St James's Park.
And the result eased nerves on Tyneside after a challenging start to the season.
Benitez had dropped captain Jamaal Lascelles and Daryl Janmaat in the wake of the weekend's 2-1 home defeat to Huddersfield Town.
Yoan Gouffran was handed a surprise start by Benitez, who was again without the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Hayden opened the scoring in the 20th minute with a low shot, but for the third game in a row Newcastle conceded in the 45th minute, this time from the penalty spot after debutant Ciaran Clark brought down John Swift.
United fought back after the break, and Ritchie opened his account with a 50th-minute penalty after Chris Gunter hauled down Gouffran in the box.
Newcastle desperately needed a third goal, and Gayle made certain of the three points with a superb free kick, his second goal in three games, in the 69th minute.
Benitez threw on Lascelles and Jack Colback in the latter stages to help United see the game out, and Gayle netted a fourth goal from close range in the 88th minute after Hayden found him in the box.
Newcastle's next game is against Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Saturday.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Sels; Anita, Mbemba, Clark, Dummett; Ritchie (Aarons, 89), Hayden, Shelvey, Gouffran (Colback, 83); Perez (Lascelles, 75); Gayle. Subs not used: Darlow, Janmaat, Hanley, Armstrong.
READING: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Obita, McShane, Van den Berg, Evans (Mendes, 83), Williams, Swift, Beerens (Meite, 79), McCleary, Kermorgant. Subs not used: Jaakkola, Cooper, Rakels, Quinn, Watson.
Goals: Hayden 20, McCleary 45 (pen), Ritchie 50 (pen), Gayle 69, 88
Bookings: Gayle 3, Williams 40, Gunter 49, Kermorgant 62, Evans 69
Referee: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire)