Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Cardiff City 0 Newcastle United 2

Newcastle United's Christian Atsu (right) celebrates scoring with DeAndre Yedlin.
Newcastle United's Christian Atsu (right) celebrates scoring with DeAndre Yedlin.

So that was the week that was.

One promotion, one raid, 630 miles and six points.

It was quite a week at Newcastle United.

It’s been quite a season for Rafa Benitez’s side, who last night claimed a club-record 14th away win.

And the 2-0 victory over Cardiff City took them within a point of Championship leaders Brighton and Hove Albion, who entertain Bristol City at the Amex Stadium needing a win to secure the league title.

There was a chant of “Premier League, you’re having a laugh” from the home fans before Christian Atsu broke the deadlock at the Cardiff City Stadium.

But Newcastle’s travelling support had the last laugh.

Isaac Hayden scored a second goal to end hopes of a comeback from Cardiff, who had created a number of chances before Atsu’s goal.

The performance might not have been too memorable.

But the night was memorable. It’s not been pretty at times – and this was no exception – but Newcastle done what they’ve needed to do.

And, again, United’s quality in the final third of the pitch saw them win away from home.

Long after the final whistle, jubilant supporters chanted about United’s promotion – and Sunderland’s imminent relegation.

A decade ago, Benitez and Neil Warnock, Cardiff’s manager, were involved in an infamous feud in the wake of Sheffield United’s relegation from the Premier League.

However, Warnock – who had been unhappy at Benitez naming a weakened Liverpool team late in the 2006-07 season – paid tribute to the Spaniard’s “achievement” in getting Newcastle promoted ahead of the fixture.

“Congratulations to Rafa on his achievement,” said Warnock.

“It’s not an easy league, no matter what anybody says, whether you’ve got money to spend or not.

“Newcastle set off to get promotion and they’ve achieved it with a little bit of time to spare.”

It’s not been easy, and the past eight months have taken a toll on Benitez’s players.

And just two days after Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs officers raided St James’s Park and the club’s training ground, the team took to the field at the Cardiff City Stadium for the club’s 45th time in the league this season.

The team was much-changed from the one which secured promotion with a 4-1 win over Preston North End at St James’s Park on Monday night.

Benitez, without a clutch of players through injury and suspension, made five changes to his starting XI, with Chancel Mbamba, Jack Colback and Daryl Murphy among those recalled to the team.

Aleksandar Mitrovic and Jonjo Shelvey were named on the substitute’s bench.

Managing director Lee Charnley, arrested and released without charge by HMRC officers on Wednesday, chose not to attend the game.

Newcastle were supported by more than 4,200 fans at the Cardiff City Stadium.

And they saw United have the better of the opening exchanges, though Aron Gunnarsson tested Rob Elliot, again preferred to Karl Darlow, in the first minute.

The first half was a non-event, though what happened after the break made up for that.

Mid-table Cardiff had a Sean Morrison goal ruled out for a foul in the 20th minute.

For all Newcastle’s possession, they struggled to create clearcut chances at the other end of the pitch, and Warnock’s team, beaten 2-1 at St James’s Park earlier in the season, grew in confidence the longer the half wore on.

DeAndre Yedlin forced a save from Allan McGregor as United rallied late in the half.

Craig Noone should have put Cardiff ahead early in the second half, but the substitute shot wide from close range.

The breakthrough came in the 55th minute after Atsu was bundled over just outside the home box.

Atsu stepped up and lifted the resulting free-kick over the wall and past a static McGregor.

From that moment on Newcastle’s fans, stood behind McGregor’s goal, didn’t stop signing.

Hayden put United further ahead with a left-footed shot from outside the box in the 65th minute before running to the supporters.

Benitez’s quickly sent on Mitrovic, and Shelvey, booed by home fans for his affiliation with rivals Swansea City, followed him on to the pitch a few minutes later.

They couldn’t conjure up a third goal, but it didn’t matter.

The game was won.

And the title is still there to be won – or lost.