Rafa Benitez only needed two words to sum up Friday night’s match….’Job done’.

A lot of it wasn’t pretty but the bottom line is that it was three goals and three points to Newcastle, taking them above fog-bound Brighton and back to the top of the table.

The lead is one point, whilst nine points back to Reading in third (their match abandoned at 0-0 last night due to…fog).

Rafa Benitez claimed not to see the red card incident but felt that Newcastle were on top regardless at that point, the United boss believing his players started each half well.

Rafa felt his team needed to change after going a bit flat as the first half went on and the visitors equalised in the 29th minute. However, he didn’t go for any half-time substitutes despite there being a number of potential candidates to be dragged off.

The United boss picked out 19 goal Dwight Gayle for special praise, calling the Championship’s top scorer ‘a great player’.

The two extreme scenarios are wondering where Newcastle would be without him, or alternatively where the team could have been with somebody of similar quality to play in and around the centre-forward.

This time it was Ayoze Perez given the opportunity ahead of Mohamed Diame and he was absolutely woeful – no doubt food for thought with the transfer window opening imminently.

Rafa Benitez:

“Job done, pleased with that because we needed three points.

“However, if you analyse the game we were pushing and creating chances.

“I was pleased with the approach in the second half, the sending off gave us an advantage but we were doing what we had to do.

Dwight Gayle is a great player – scoring goals and creating chances, I’m pleased for him, hopefully he can carry on scoring goals.

“To have won 17 games at this stage of the season is quite good – we have lost games but we are still winning a lot, we have a good team and work very hard.

“In the bad moments we need our experience but we have had a lot of good moments. The main thing for me is to keep doing that and also improve the little things.

“It was a different game and a different situation to the City Ground clash – I think that we started the game well, pushing and creating chances.

“After they scored it was a little more even and we needed to change in the second half.

“We did again and we were pushing at the beginning (of second half), the sending-off was a big advantage for us.

“I think at the beginning of the first half and second half the team played with the intensity and pace you need if you want to win in this type of game.

“It was a yellow then after that he (Matt Mills’ second yellow) was kicking the ball at our player. I did not see it, they told me – the fourth official was involved.”

Here are the stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 3 Nottingham Forest 1

Goals – 

Newcastle United: Ritchie 4 Gayle 63, 80

Nottingham Forest: Dumitru 29 (Mills red card 60)

Possession was Forest 40% Newcastle 60%

Total shots were Forest 8 Newcastle 16

Shots on target were Forest 3 Newcastle 8

Corners were Forest 1 Newcastle 9

Newcastle starting 11:

Darlow, Yedlin, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Hayden, Colback (Diame 67), Ritchie (Lazaar 83), Atsu, Perez, Gayle (Mitrovic 88)

Unused Subs:

Sels, Mbemba, Gouffran, Anita

Referee: Keith Stroud

Crowd: 52,228

(To read the instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the match go HERE)

(To view the interactive player ratings and to add your own go HERE)