Rafa Benitez was happy with what he saw on Saturday, the players carrying out his orders to perfection and taking Newcastle back to the top of the table.

The last home match saw Newcastle fail to score and go down to a single goal defeat to lowly Blackburn, the United boss saying that they’d talked about that match and ‘not making the same mistakes’.

Rafa Benitez says that in that game there wasn’t the necessary urgency shown by the team to go and create chances to get the goals to win the match.

Against Birmingham it was clear from the first whistle that instead the players were primed to go all out for it and make life as uncomfortable as possible for the visitors. Birmingham boss Gary Rowett admitted after the match that in the first half especially, his team couldn’t deal with the ‘athleticism’ Newcastle showed, as well as the quality.

Whilst it was a great team performance as Newcastle took Birmingham apart, Rafa Benitez did though pick out one player for special mention.

Dwight Gayle now has 16 goals in 15 Championship starts and says ‘he can make the difference’. Perhaps tellingly, Gayle didn’t start that Blackburn defeat and it is obvious that he is by far Newcastle’s best striker, with both his quality and his ‘athleticism’.

Many people were surprised that Dwight Gayle was willing to drop a division but Rafa says ‘I knew that he would score goals’, the only question being ‘I didn’t how many’.

If the likes of Hayden, Shelvey and Diame keep on playing like they did on Saturday, it could be some total come May for Dwight Gayle as (hopefully) he shoots Newcastle back to the Premier League.

Rafa Benitez:

“I think the first half we played really well and had a lot of chances – in the second-half we expected them to push but we created more chances and scored the goals.

“We played attacking football with some pace and good situations that we practiced, the players were enjoying it.

“We talked about the Blackburn game and not making the same mistakes in waiting 45 minutes to create some chances. We concentrated and did what we had to do.

I knew that he (Dwight Gayle) would score goals, I didn’t know how many.

“Now I can see he will score a lot but I don’t want to say a figure – hopefully he can score goals in every game.

“He is a great finisher, he has good movement and he can make the difference.”

Here are the stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 4 Birmingham 0

Goals – 

Newcastle: Gayle 18, 24, 77 Gouffran 47

Possession was Birmingham 38% Newcastle 62%

Total shots were Birmingham 5 Newcastle 20

Shots on target were Birmingham 2 Newcastle 10

Corners were Birmingham 1 Newcastle 7

Newcastle starting 11:

Darlow, Anita, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Hayden (Lazaar 82), Shelvey, Ritchie, Gouffran (Atsu 72), Diame, Gayle (Mitrovic 79)

Unused Subs:

Sels, Mbemba, Yedlin, Tiote

Referee: Andy Davies

Crowd: 52,145 (Birmingham 3,184)

(Birmingham boss Gary Rowett waves the white flag after watching his team being taken apart – read it HERE)

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

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

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