Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Newcastle United 2 Aston Villa 0

Henri Lansbury is the fall guy after scoring an own goal
Henri Lansbury is the fall guy after scoring an own goal

What goes around, comes around.

Henri Lansbury learnt a harsh lesson last night.

Newcastle United fans felt it was karma.

It was a night to forget for Lansbury and another memorable night for the club, which returned to the top of the Championship thanks to a 2-0 win over Aston Villa.

Lansbury had been the pantomime villain before a ball was kicked.

And the midfielder didn’t disappoint.

Nor did the Gallowgate Flags display before kick-off time at St James’s Park.

But the victory came at a cost, with Dwight Gayle having limped out of the match with just 33 minutes on the clock.

Gayle, having just recovered from a hamstring problem, is facing up to another spell on the sidelines.

A rivalry has developed between the two sets of fans since Newcastle’s relegation in 2009 when banners mocking the club’s plight were dangled from the upper tier of the Holte End at Villa Park.

Those bedsheets haven’t been forgotten on Tyneside.

What goes around, comes around, as Villa found out last season when they themselves were relegated along with United.

And their adjustment to the Championship has proved a difficult one.

Benitez, however, warned that Newcastle would not be in for an easy game, despite Villa’s struggles this season under Steve Bruce and Roberto Di Matteo, his predecessor.

“The adaptation to the Championship is not easy, and despite spending money on good players and having an experienced manager who knows the division well, they find themselves in the middle of the table,” Benitez wrote in his programme notes.

“But we mustn’t think because of that it will be an easy game. No chance.”

It wasn’t an easy game, but once United went ahead, it wasn’t a hard one.

Then there was Lansbury, who was involved in the incidents which got Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett sent off in December’s meeting with Nottingham Forest, his former club.

Lansbury missed the return fixture through injury, though his move to Villa ensured he would have another chance to face the wrath of United’s fans at St James’s Park.

The boos for Lansbury, however, were muted in an opening dominated by the visitors.

United didn’t create an early chance, while Bikir Bjarnason scuffed a good far-post opportunity from a Scott Hogan flick-on.

Newcastle just didn’t get going for the first 25 minutes, and the game was abrasive and attritional.

Darlow tipped over a deflected delivery from Jonathan Kodija before the team lost Gayle to injury in the 33rd minute.

Gayle limped off after signalling that he had suffered a recurrence of his hamstring problem and Benitez sent on Aleksandar Mitrovic.

It was a big blow to United, who had missed his pace, movement and goals during his month-long absence.

United manager Benitez expects Gayle to miss “some games”.

Newcastle, however, pressed on, and their breakthrough came from the first corner they won. Matt Ritchie’s delivery was headed down by Jamaal Lascelles and Gouffran, eventually, flicked the ball past Sam Johnstone for his seventh goal of the campaign.

United were better after the break, and their second came from another corner.

Lascelles again nodded down the delivery, and it was inadvertently helped over the line by Lansbury, who was so unapologetic for his involvement in the dismissals of Shelvey and Dummett.

The biggest cheer of the night came when the PA system announcer confirmed that it was an own goal.

Villa manager Bruce was typically-blunt when asked about the goal after the match.

“It was hideous, so I’ve been told,” said Bruce. “It sums our night up.”

The rest of the game was a non-event, though Darlow did deny Bjarnason with a fine save.

Villa lost Scott Hogan, signed in a £15million deal from Brentford last month, to what Bruce described as a “nasty” injury late in the game.

The injury suffered by Gayle is a worry for United, but Benitez’s side have been able to win without him this season.

And Newcastle are now just 21 points away from the division’s 90-point promotion milestone.