Rafa Benitez reacts to Ayoze Perez's upturn in fortunes at Newcastle

Ayoze Perez has kicked off the New Year in style.

Ayoze Perez, left, and Ciaran Clark
Ayoze Perez, left, and Ciaran Clark

Ayoze Perez has kicked off the New Year in style.

The forward is Newcastle United’s leading scorer after scoring three goals in his last two games.

Dwight Gayle and Joselu have both scored three Premier League goals so far this season.

Perez followed his strike in the New Year’s Day win over Stoke City with two goals in Saturday’s FA Cup win over Luton Town.

And Benitez is pleased to see Perez on the scoresheet after a difficult first half to the campaign.

“I think he will be delighted, because scoring in the league and scoring here in a good game – in the first half we did some good things – he will be really pleased,” said Benitez, whose side take on Swansea City at St James’s Park on Saturday.

“It’s always positive for strikers to score and gain some confidence.”

Perez, normally used as a No 10 by Benitez, gives United’s manager a welcome extra option up front.

Benitez added: “Perez is important for the team and it’s important for a striker to score goals.

“The team created chances, and Ayoze will be happier than others.”

Perez took to Twitter after Newcastle booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Jonjo Shelvey was also on target in front of a remarkable crowd of 47,069, including 7,500 travelling fans, at St James’s Park.

After the game, Perez tweeted: “Not a bad way to begin 2018 .

“We must keep working to continue like this.”