Six talking points from Newcastle United's win over Aston Villa

Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Rafa Benitez's Magpies went back to the top of the Championship table with a routine 2-0 win over Aston Villa last night.

A Yoan Gouffran effort as well as a comical own goal from pantomime Villan Henri Lansbury made sure Newcastle go into the weekend round of fixtures a point clear of chasing Brighton in the race for the Championship title.

But what were the main talking points to come out of the encounter? Here we take a look...

Was Dwight Gayle thrown in too soon?

As positive as United's win was it was clear to see from Rafa Benitez's post-match press conference that he was shaken by the injury suffered by striker Gayle.

The Spaniard revealed that Gayle, who lasted just 32 minutes on his return to the starting XI after around a month out of action, had suffered a recurrence of the hamstring injury which saw him sidelined until the recent Norwich City visit.

Was Dwight Gayle, above warming up at SJP, rushed back?

Was Dwight Gayle, above warming up at SJP, rushed back?

As a result Benitez expects 20-goal Gayle to miss "a couple" of games.

It begs the question, was the frontman rushed back or was it just bad luck? Only the manager and his medical staff will know the real answer to that.

Have people been too quick to write Aleksandar Mitrovic off?

The Serbian frontman is a player who really divides opinion among the United faithful.

Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Some fans love him for his passion and all-action, no nonsense style, while others are frustrated in equal measure by his wastefulness in front of goal and perceived lack of mobility.

But in the interests of fairness it has to be said - Mitro made a big difference when he entered the park last night.

He chased absolutely everything and was a nuisance throughout.

It looks like more of the same is going to be required again at Bristol City this weekend, and against the Championship promotion trio of Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading.

Matt Ritchie.

Matt Ritchie.

Matt Ritchie is the real deal

I have to say after the start of the season I was left with the feeling that the Scotland international was a little bit of a let down.

Having come in to score and create I felt he had not quite lived up to the standard he had brilliantly set at Bournemouth.

Those early campaign doubts are looking dafter by the game now, though, as Ritchie is showing week-in, week-out just why Rafa paid so much to secure his services.

He looks a class act in every sense of the term.

Paul Dummett continues to prove his doubters wrong

Paul Dummett tussles with James Chester.

Paul Dummett tussles with James Chester.

Like him or loathe him, the left-back is Newcastle's Mr Consistent of late.

Last night as the game wore on he shut the door defensively. And, on occasions, allowed himself a burst or two forward.

On last night's show it is easy to see why Benitez puts so much trust in the Geordie academy graduate.

How big a role does Daryl Murphy have to play this season?

Massive. Simple as that.

We've only seen in brief glimpses how valuable the Irishman can be at this level since his £5million arrival from Ipswich Town last summer.

But when he has been needed he has more than produced the goods.

The veteran former Sunderland and Celtic man will no doubt be needed this weekend and moving forward should Gayle's hamstring prognosis worsen.

The Murphy acquisition last summer had some baffled, but Benitez knew exactly what he was doing when he brought him in and has been proved right in times of need.

Karl Darlow has the kind of character you just can't buy

It has often been said that goalkeepers are a different breed.

Former Nottingham Forest man Darlow is proof of that.

He dropped a clanger at Norwich then redeemed himself against Villa. His second half stop prevented what would have been a nervy end.

One thing that can never be doubted is the keeper's character. He has been a credit to NUFC this season so far and I have no doubt will continue to be so for the final 14 games of what has been a mammoth second tier campaign.

Daryl Murphy.

Daryl Murphy.

Karl Darlow tips over Jonathan Kodija effort.

Karl Darlow tips over Jonathan Kodija effort.