Benitez backs Magpies to get better after breaking their Championship duck

Yoan Gouffram is the fall guy after a challenge by Reading's Chris Gunter to earn Newcastle a penalty last night. Picture by Frank Reid

Yoan Gouffram is the fall guy after a challenge by Reading's Chris Gunter to earn Newcastle a penalty last night. Picture by Frank Reid

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Rafa Benitez believes that his Newcastle United team will only get better after the Magpies finally got their Championship campaign up and running.

Benitez’s side beat Reading 4-1 at St James’s Park last night.

Dwight Gayle struck twice to take his tally to three goals from three games, and fellow summer signings Isaac Hayden and Matt Ritchie also found the net, though the game was tighter than the scoreline suggested.

The Tynesiders’ much-needed win followed season-opening defeats to Fulham and Huddersfield Townm

“We can still get much better,” said Benitez. “How much is difficult to quantify, but I am sure that we will improve.

“There will be some bad games for sure, but we will improve and play better. We had some good play at times, but we still have to improve.”

Benitez – whose side next take on Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Saturday – felt the result was all-important given what had happened in the Magpies’ first 180 minutes in the Championship.

“It was very important for everyone to get three points, because we didn’t get anything from the first two games,” said Benitez, whose side conceded a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

“Even though while we didn’t play too well, we didn’t play too badly either. I thought we showed character and a good reaction after conceding the goal, and that is what we have to do.

“Sometimes we will play well, but we have to show character all the time.

“The result is always the most important thing, but the way you get the result can be important for the future.

“If you play well, you will have more possibilities to win games. But you have to win. We made another mistake and conceded a goal, but this time we scored four.”

The breakthrough came on 20 minutes, Hayden turning to strike a low shot past Ali Al-Habsi after the visitors failed to clear Matt Ritchie’s cross.

Roy Beerens struck the bar at the other end before Newcastle, for the third game in a row, conceded a goal in the 45th minute, this time from the penalty spot.

Ciaran Clark made a rash challenge on John Swift, heading away from goal, and Madley pointed to the spot. Garath McCleary converted the spot-kick.

Newcastle regained the lead in the 50th minute as Chris Gunter hauled down Gouffran as a corner was delivered, and Ritchie confidently stroked home the resulting penalty.

Newcastle had another penalty appeal turned down, and Reading continued to look dangerous.

But Gayle settled the Magpies’ nerves with a well-taken free-kick in the 69th minute, curling his effort into the top corner despite the keeper’s best efforts

Gayle then added a fourth – his third goal in as many games – with a close-range finish from Hayden’s deflected cross a minute from time.

Benitez said: “The reaction (to Reading’s equaliser) was really good. The team showed character in the second half.

“We can play better and be stronger, but it we can win in the meantime, that is good. I can keep working with the players every day, but it is always easier when you get three points.”

Newcastle: Sels, Anita, Mbemba, Clark, Dummett, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie (Aarons 90), Perez (Lascelles 76), Gouffran (Colback 84), Gayle. Subs not used: Hanley, Janmaat, Darlow, Armstrong. Booked: Gayle. Goals: Hayden 20, Ritchie 50 pen, Gayle 69, 89

Reading: Al Habsi, Gunter, McShane, van den Berg, Obita, Evans (Mendes 83), Williams, McCleary, Swift, Beerens (Meite 79), Kermorgant. Subs not used: Cooper, Rakels, Quinn, Watson, Jaakkola. Booked: Obita, Williams, Gunter, Kermorgant, Evans. Goal: McCleary 45 pen.

Att: 48,209.

Ref: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire).